M. Basketball: Stanford must step it up against Seattle

The Stanford men’s basketball team has shown flashes of the greatness that had many top college analysts predicting it would earn a bid to March’s NCAA Tournament. Over the last week, Stanford played a talented Belmont team very closely, came within four points of No. 13 Missouri with under two minutes remaining and was all knotted up with Minnesota just as time was about to expire. However, costly mistakes in each of these contests left the Cardinal empty handed, as it dropped each of these very winnable games.

Sophomore guard Chasson Randle poured in 22 points as Stanford came up short in a loss to No. 13 Missouri and also scored a game-high 21 in the Cardinal’s win over Northern Iowa last week. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford (4-3, 0-0 Pac-12) will look to right the ship this Wednesday night when Seattle (2-1, 0-0 WAC) rolls into Maples Pavilion for a nonconference game. The Redhawks are coming off of a 58-49 win over Pacific Lutheran and will be looking to use this momentum to pick up an upset win over Stanford. Any win against a Pac-12 team would be huge for Seattle, as it would surely send a message to the rest of the WAC conference.

The Cardinal defense has been underwhelming in the first stages of this season and tonight it will have the difficult task of slowing down the freshman duo of redshirt freshman forward Deshaun Sunderhaus and redshirt junior forward Trent Clarence. The 6-foot-9 Sunderhaus has been a force in the paint, leading the team with 21 rebounds (7.0 per game) through his first three games. He also hasn’t had much trouble with his shooting touch thus far, being second in scoring, with 10.7 points per game, and going a solid 13 for 29 from the field (.448 percent). However, what makes the young forward so dangerous is his versatility. He is one of the rare big men who can wreak havoc both at the baseline and beyond the arc. He is shooting .750 percent from the three-point line and does not shy away from an opportunity to shoot the long ball.

Clarence began his collegiate career in the Pac-12, playing for the conference-champion Washington squad that advanced to the regional semifinals in the NCAA tournament in 2010. He brings veteran leadership and the ability to finish around the basket to the young Redhawks team. Clarence is leading the team in scoring, averaging 12.3 points per game on .423 percent from the field. He pitches in on the defensive end as well, averaging six rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. Still, he will surely be looking to take better care of the ball as he has already turned it over 15 times (five per game).

Both players will look to exploit a Stanford defense that has underperformed thus far. After opening the season with four straight wins, the Cardinal has stalled, dropping three of its last four contests. The strong play of junior forward Dwight Powell, who has made huge strides following his sophomore year, has not been enough for a Stanford team that has committed too many mental mistakes. Individually, many of the Card’s top players are performing well, as sophomore forward Chasson Randle has lived up to expectations, leading the team with 15.4 points per game. Powell is not far behind, averaging a solid 13 points per game. Timely turnovers and fouls have been Stanford’s undoing this season, as their worst basketball in each of its losses has come in the last two minutes.

This is uncharacteristic for a squad run by Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. The Cardinal will look to improve its second half play against Seattle, getting back on track in the process. The team has big plans this season, but with a talented Pac-12 field that includes 10th-ranked Arizona, 19th-ranked Colorado, UCLA and Oregon, it will need to cut back on the mental errors. Wednesday night is the perfect time to begin.