As the first full week of college basketball continues, Stanford (2-0) will host Southern Methodist University (1-0) at Maples Pavilion for its third game of the season.
After losing starting point guard Robert Cartwright for the season to a compound fracture in his right arm and guard Marcus Allen indefinitely to a stress fracture in his right foot, Stanford will continue the adjustment process as the season rolls on with its matchup against a talented SMU team.
SMU won convincingly in its debut, beating Sam Houston State 85-50. The Mustangs have posted back-to-back 27-win seasons and have established themselves as one of the premier programs in the American Athletic Conference. After winning the regular season and conference titles last season, they sport a starting line-up of two fifth-year seniors and three juniors that have logged plenty of minutes together.
Nic Moore, the 5-foot-9 fifth-year senior guard, is the undisputed star of the program. The reigning AAC Player of the Year was named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 for the second year in a row. (He’s no stranger to the Pac-12.)
Moore is a dynamic play-maker with outstanding experience, and the Mustangs will look to their outstanding point guard to lead them to another successful season.
Meanwhile, Stanford has also enjoyed some early season success, pulling out a tight 93-89 overtime win against Wisconsin-Green Bay in the season opener and following up with a 93-59 victory over Charleston Southern.
Even though Stanford has secured two wins, the effects from preseason injuries have been visibly felt. The Cardinal turned the ball over 21 times against Wisconsin-Green Bay, four of which came in a five-minute span in which the Phoenix went on a 13-1 run.
Stanford was particularly turnover-prone last season, especially late in games. Cartwright was expected to alleviate some of the ball-control problems as the head of the offense; that responsibility now lies on senior guard Christian Sanders.
Sanders, who played point guard in high school, has only had two weeks to prepare for the role after switching over from his preferred position at the 2 following Cartwright’s injury. Though he nailed key shots down the stretch and got 15 free-throw attempts, he committed 6 turnovers in the Wisconsin-Green Bay game. He’ll have to improve on that mark against an efficient and experienced SMU offense.
Sanders will be a central piece for a Stanford team that has heavily revolved around its senior players in the past few seasons. However, that trend is likely to change this year with three capable sophomore starters: Dorian Pickens has a hold on the 2-guard spot with Marcus Allen out, while the combo of Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey has rounded out the frontcourt.
Pickens has scored 34 total points, while Humphrey recorded two double-doubles. Travis has played exceptionally well inside, continuing his strong play from the close of last season.
This young core will faceoff against an SMU team with a lot of chemistry in a game that will serve as a barometer for two promising teams. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday in Maples.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’ stanford.edu.