Prior to the start of the NCAA tournament last week few people gave No. 10 Stanford a chance of advancing out of the Round of 64. With No. 7 New Mexico having won the Mountain West tournament and No. 2 Kansas without the services of Joel Embiid, much of the Sweet 16 talk centered on the Lobos prior to their matchup with the Cardinal. But it would be Stanford who emerged from St. Louis, and their defense in both games was a major reason as to why.
After limiting New Mexico to 36.5% shooting from the field the Cardinal were even better against Kansas, as the Jayhawks shot just 32.8% from the field and committed 14 turnovers. With their interior tandem of Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell and a talented combo guard in Chasson Randle, Johnny Dawkins’ team seemed to have the pieces needed to make life difficult for No. 11 Dayton.
However things didn’t work out that way for Stanford, as Dayton used quality ball movement to find open shots throughout the night in their 82-72 victory.
Stanford tried the 2-3 zone look that gave Kansas fits on Sunday, and Dayton responded by making six three-pointers in the first half and scoring 42 points. And in the second half with Stanford going back to its man-to-man the Flyers were able to break the Cardinal down off the dribble, resulting in multiple opportunities at the basket. Dayton scored 22 points in the paint in the second half, and for the game the Flyers made 48.3% of its field goal attempts.
Stanford didn’t defend at the level they did against either New Mexico or Kansas, and the disadvantageous match-ups certainly factored into that. But the defense wasn’t the only reason why Stanford fell short of reaching the Elite Eight, as Randle was anything but efficient offensively.
Randle scored a team-high 21 points but did so on 21 field goal attempts, making eight. Add in his three assists and five turnovers, and the player entrusted with running the show since Aaron Bright was lost early in the season due to injury struggled at the worst possible time. Add in Stefan Nastic picking up his fourth foul just over six minutes into the second half after taking advantage of his size against Dayton’s front court, and the Cardinal found themselves fighting uphill the rest of the way.
While the finish to the season was a disappointing one for Stanford, that shouldn’t take away from what they were able to accomplish last week in St. Louis. But this time of year one off night leads to doom on most occasions, and that proved to be the case for the Cardinal.