Reid Travis led Stanford in both scoring and rebounding last season, and is widely considered one of the best big men in the conference. Although he has already gotten much attention from Pac-12 coaches, players and fans, will Travis find more of the national spotlight this season?
Jose Saldana (JS): Reid Travis is the Pac-12’s returning leading scorer and rebounder so he’s definitely shown he’s one of the top dogs in the conference. Unfortunately for him, unless you are a one-and-done, then you don’t get much attention from fans. It will be harder for him to gain more national prominence but it can start by playing well in games against the blue bloods of college basketball. However, even if Travis puts up 20 and 10 against UNC, Kansas and UCLA, it will be hard for his popularity to spread if Stanford doesn’t win or at least make these games competitive. Look at Buddy Hield of Oklahoma from a couple of years ago, Hield was a senior who got better each year just like Travis but he was able to elevate an Oklahoma team in the national rankings. Then against Kansas, Hield scored 46 points in a three-point, triple-overtime loss. Even with the defeat, Hield rose to the national spotlight and became a lottery pick in the NBA.
Stanford also needs to make NCAA Tournament and survive a couple of rounds with strong performances from Travis. March Madness immortalizes players like no other event in college sports.
King Jemison (KJ): As in football, Pac-12 basketball just doesn’t get the same national attention as the ACC, Big 10 and the other major conferences. Reid Travis’ national reputation will suffer in the same way that Bryce Love, Christian McCaffrey and other Cardinal stars have in the past. That being said, Travis deserves the spotlight he won’t get. He single-handedly carried the Cardinal at times last year, leading the team in an incredible nine statistical categories. He figures to be even better this year, especially since he’s spent a lot of the offseason working on his outside shot and his passing. If he can learn to stretch the floor and distribute to his teammates on top of his already dominant post play, then he will go from a statistical monster to one of the best players in college basketball.
One thing that will working in Travis’ favor this year is that his team should be a lot better than last year. After finishing 10th in the Pac-12 last season, Stanford was picked to finish fifth by the media this year. On paper, Stanford has the talent to reach the NCAA Tournament. If they do and Travis continues to put up big numbers, he will gain more and more attention. And if somehow he can lead a magical tournament run, he will become a hero.
Key losses for the Cardinal include Marcus Allen, a solid defender and slasher who was always a threat to take it to the rim, and Christian Sanders, who was second on the team in assists coming off the bench at point guard. Who do you expect to step up for the Cardinal to fulfill the unique roles those two filled this season?
JS: Marcus Sheffield looks like an early candidate to fill the role Allen did last season. In the exhibition win over Chico State, Sheffield was aggressive as he took 10 free throw attempts and scored 15 points on seven attempts. Many people, including myself, thought Sheffield would break out last season, but other than the Arizona State game where he scored 35 points, Sheffield’s impact wasn’t felt. This year, with a faster-paced offense and more playing time, Sheffield could finally break out, and at 6-foot-5, he has great size for defending.
A couple of freshmen could help to replace Sanders’ and Allen’s production. Freshman Daejon Davis got the start against Chico State and he showed the ability to run the offense. He pushed the ball and attacked the paint that was missing from Stanford’s point guards and showed good footwork on defense. The other freshman guard Isaac White showed his elite skill at shooting when he scored 14 points and shot 75 percent from three. His three-point shooting is desperately needed for a Stanford team that ranked last in the Pac-12 in three-point percentage (32 percent).
KJ: Though Stanford will miss Allen and Sanders’ production, the team has a number of returners and newcomers who can step right in and contribute in similar ways. Marcus Sheffield is an athletic, hard-nosed hybrid guard that loves to attack the basket every chance he gets. In the exhibition, Chico State gave up on trying to stop his determined drives and just resorted to fouling him almost every time. He played the second-most minutes for the Cardinal against Chico State, so it’s obvious Coach Haase wants to make him a feature of the rotation this season.
Freshman Daejon Davis got the start at point guard in the exhibition. A top-50 national recruit, Davis has the talent to transform the team in year one. He showcased his ability to attack the basket and defend, going two of three from the field and recording a steal without turning the ball over once. To make things even better, senior point guard Robert Cartwright came off the bench and dished out six assists in the exhibition. He was a part-time starter last year, and we may see he and Davis share the starting role this year. Other guys to look out for in Allen and Sanders’ roles are Isaac White and Dorian Pickens. White was particularly impressive against Chico State. The freshman might be the best shooter on the team this year, but he also has great ability as a slasher and an aggressive defender.
Stanford had a rough finish to last season, going 3-9 in its last 12 games and getting knocked out of the Pac-12 Tournament in the first round by Arizona State. What needs to happen for the Cardinal to be more competitive in a tough Pac-12 slate?
JS: Travis has to be healthy and be even better than last year. He was Pac-12 First Team last season, but he has to develop a long-range shot to stretch the floor and give the other players more space. As I mentioned above, the Cardinal were not good at shooting threes, so everyone (except maybe Pickens and White) needs to shoot better from the three-point line. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinal need to defend the three-point shot better than last season. They were ranked 323rd in three point defense (allowed 38.2 percent) out of 347 teams. Stanford cannot expect to make postseason tournaments with bad defense against the best value shot in basketball.
KJ: Stanford is going to need to get Travis a lot of help this year. There needs to be a reliable second scoring option to open up the paint for Travis to do his work. Perhaps Sheffield can fill that role. He had 15 points against Chico State. Isaac White is another candidate. He scored 14 coming off the bench in the exhibition. Senior center Michael Humphrey could step up. He’s averaged nearly 10 points the last two seasons and has worked on expanding his range in the offseason, as have all the Cardinal big men. Seven-footer Josh Sharma added nine in the opener on a perfect shooting night, illustrating his newfound offensive confidence. There’s a number of guys who have the potential to be the second scorer, but we’ll see if any of them have the consistency necessary to produce in almost every game of a long and grueling season. Stanford should have the luxury of depth this season, but if the Cardinal can develop more than one true star, then it could be a fun winter on the Farm.