Top 25 Countdown: No. 25 Stanford Cardinal

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2014-2015 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day. Today, we start off our Top 25 countdown with the No. 25 Stanford Cardinal.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

source: Getty Images
Johnny Dawkins and Chasson Randle, Getty Images

Last Season: 23-13, 10-8 Pac-12 (t-3rd), lost in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Johnny Dawkins

Key Losses: Dwight Powell (14.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.1 apg), Josh Huestis (11.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg)

Newcomers: Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey, Robert Cartwright, Dorian Pickens

Projected Lineup

G: Chasson Randle, Sr.
G: Anthony Brown, Sr.
– F: Rosco Allen, So.
– F: Reid Travis, Fr.
– C: Stefan Nastic, Sr.
– Bench: Grant Verhoeven, Jr.; Marcus Allen, So.; Malcolm Allen, So.; Robert Cartwright, Fr.; Michael Humphrey, Fr.; Christian Sanders, So.

They’ll be good because …: Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown will give the Cardinal one of the best back courts in the country. Randle is a supremely underrated lead guard, a big-time scorer that will have to take on more of a playmaking role this season. Brown is a 6-foot-6 marksman that has a reputation for being one of the better perimeter defenders out west.

The combination of Randle and Brown will be the anchor for Stanford as they try to repeat last season’s run to the Sweet 16, but there will be a solid supporting cast around them as well. Stefan Nastic isn’t anything special, but he’s a fifth-year senior and a capable low-post scorer that stands 6-foot-11. He’s not going to be intimidated by anyone he goes up against in league play. He’ll be joined up front by talented freshmen Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey, redshirt sophomore Rosco Allen and junior Grant Verhoeven. Travis, an undersized power forward that is a monster on the glass, should step into the starting lineup from day one and replace the production provided by Josh Huestis last season.

The back court is not as deep, but freshman Robert Cartwright should provide minutes at to spell Randle and give him a chance to play off the ball as well. There’s a chance that Cartwright could end up taking over the starting point guard role by the end of the season. Sophomore twins Marcus and Malcolm Allen will both be available as well, and Dorian Pickens should be able to provide a scoring pop when he sees the floor. The x-factor will be Christian Sanders, who started four times as a freshman in 2012-2013 but is coming off of an injury that kept him out all of last season.

source:
Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, AP Photo

But they might disappoint because …: We know how good Randle and Brown are, but beyond that, there are a lot of question marks. That’s not to say Dawkins hasn’t accumulated talent — he has recruited well — it’s just that the supporting cast he has on his roster is quite unproven.

Nastic is solid, but he was the third option in Stanford’s front court last year, behind Dwight Powell and Huestis. Freshmen Travis, Humphrey and Cartwright are all four-star recruits, but it is hard to know just how effective freshmen are going to be in their first season on campus. Rosco Allen was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and started seven games as a freshman in 2012-2013, but he missed all of last season with an injury. Verhoeven and the Allen twins have never played major roles.

Outlook: The irony of last season’s run to the Sweet 16 is that before the season — and even entering the NCAA tournament, to a certain extent — there was a concern that Johnny Dawkins’ job could be on the line if he wasn’t able to make some noise. Last year was the most talented team that he has had in his tenure, and the Cardinal only managed a 10 seed in the dance.

While his job is no longer in jeopardy, it doesn’t change the fact that Dawkins has had a number of teams that have, for one reason or another, under-performed. On paper, the Cardinal look like a top five team in the Pac-12, but games aren’t played on paper. Are we pinning too much expectation on one weekend where Stanford played well last March? Maybe, but we’re willing to risk it knowing how good Randle is and assuming that Travis, as well as Cartwright and Humphrey, will be able to make major contributions immediately.