Posted on November 22, 2020
2020 Recruiting Class: 3rd in Pac-12 (17th Nationally)
Ziaire Williams, Forward, 5-Star
Max Murrell, Forward, 3-Star
Noah Taitz, Guard, 3-Star
Michael O’Connell, Guard, 3-Star
Brandon Angel, Forward, 3-Star
Oscar da Silva
Big Picture: Cardinal Talent-Rich, Poised to Make First NCAA Tourney Since 2014
With the nation’s 17th best recruiting class highlighted by the No. 6 prospect Ziaire Williams, the Cardinal appear set for their best season since 2007-08. The Tree return four projected starters, including senior leaders Daejon Davis and Oscar da Silva. The mix of returning talent and freshmen should result in the program’s first NCAA Tournament birth since 2014.
Jerod Haase’s projected starting lineup is arguably the strongest in the Pac-12, and it begins in the backcourt. Davis is a poised and experienced point guard that effectively runs the offense, while Wills has a career 44.9% field goal percentage. On the wing, Spencer Jones is deadly from three and had the 13th highest three-point percentage in the country last season. And down low, Oscar da Silva is the team leader in scoring, coming off an All-Conference year that saw him shoot at a 57% clip from the field.
Throw in a surefire lottery pick Ziaire Williams, and Haase has himself one of the best rosters on the West Coast.
The lone question mark for Stanford heading into the 2020-21 season is depth. With five freshmen and the key returners all projected as starters, there’s legitimate concern coming off the bench. Other than Williams, the freshmen are rated in the three-star range and will need to develop their roles quickly. Any hint of foul trouble could hamper the Cardinal’s success.
But after losing Tyrell Terry to the NBA Draft after just a single season, Stanford appears to have more than reloaded.
Reasonable Expectations: Top 4 Conference Finish, NCAA Tournament Appearance
Finishing in the Top 4 of the Pac-12 standings and securing the pivotal bye in the First Round of the Conference Tournament in Las Vegas is expected considering the talent on the roster.
To get there, winning nearly every game at Maples Pavilion is a must. Any struggles at home would make the path to a First Round bye, and by default an NCAA Tournament appearance, significantly more difficult.
Davis and da Silva may have to take the freshmen under their wings, and Haase will need to identify the talent on his bench early in the year.
Translating the success in Palo Alto to the road is just as vital. The proven method of winning the Pac-12 is to win at home and split on the road. The Tree got it done in the first half of last season, but fell off toward the end of the year.
Maintaining consistency through the long season and catching fire in March could be the difference-maker for the Cardinal in 2020-21.
Achievable Goal: Contend for the Pac-12 Title
Winning the Pac-12 Tournament, and perhaps even the Regular Season Championship, is doable in Haase’s fifth season. Much of the team’s success could come down to the play of Williams, but the freshmen coming off the bench may play just as important of a role.
By and large, the talent is there to get the job done. It’s just a matter of developing roles and improving game-by-game.
But none of that will matter if the Tree’s returning stars fall short of expectations. That shouldn’t be a problem, though. Of the four key returners that project as starters, all but Jones are upperclassmen. Regardless, Haase will have seniors starting at point guard and forward that should play consistent all year.
Best Case: Win Conference Tournament, Sweet 16 Run in Big Dance
Williams emerges as one of the best players in the country and the Tree win the Pac-12 Tournament. The freshmen off the bench have some growing pains that prevent Stanford from winning the Regular Season Championship, but the newcomers improve as the season wears on to secure a third-place or better finish.
In Las Vegas, Williams and Company step their game up a notch as the Cardinal win their first Pac-12 Tournament Championship since 2004.
The strong performance results in a 4-seed or better in the Big Dance, and Haase leads the program back to the Sweet 16. And even though the team misses out on the Elite 8 in a heartbreaking defeat, the year is a resounding success.
— Previous 2020-21 Basketball Previews —
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