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Pac 10 Basketball Preview: Stanford

Key Returners: Mitch Johnson (6.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.2 APG), Anthony Goods (10.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG), Lawrence Hill (8.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG)

Key Losses: Brook Lopez (19.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG), Robin Lopez (10.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG), Taj Finger (5.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

Key Recruits: Jeremy Green (4/5 rivals, #19 SG)

Administration wise, I am not sure if things could have gotten worse for Stanford this summer. Literally days after Cal picked up Mike Montgomery, who was the best basketball coach the Cardinal ever had, current Stanford coach (and reigning Pac 10 coach of the year) Trent Johnson left to take up the head coaching position at LSU. Trying to figure exactly how Stanford managed to not extend a coaches contract fresh off an appearance in the elite eight while simultaneously not havng a backup plan in place for hiring a new coach is like trying to read tea leaves at this point, but the fact of the matter is that the farm was likely facing a bit of a down season anyways.

In what has now become a recurring theme in the Pac 10, Stanford faces a number of issues in their front court. The Cardinal must deal with the loss of the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin, selected at 10th and 15th in the NBA draft respectively), but almost equally painful is that top reserve Taj Finger is out of eligibility. This leaves Stanford without only one player taller than 6-5 with any substantial game time experience. Plus it didn't help that the incoming recruiting class had arguably its most talented player, center Miles Plumlee, switch his commitment to Duke.

Perhaps to add even more salt to the wound, it may not even make that much of a difference that Stanford returns an experienced back court. So much of Stanford's game plan revolved around the Lopez twins that it is hard to imagine that there will not be at least some struggle in switching over to a more guard oriented attack. Mitch Johnson may have averaged over five assists per game last year, but how good of a PG will he be without two future NBA first rounders to feed it to down low? Similarly Anthony Goods had a nice scoring average, but who is going to draw defenders off of the perimeter this year for those open shots? Certainly there are a number of questions among even the returning players.

But maybe I have everything wrong. Maybe new coach Johnny Dawkins will break out of the career assistant mold and lead Stanford to an excellent conference record with a backcourt full of experienced guards running a version of Duke's perimeter and passing oriented offense. And maybe Mike Montgomery will quit his Cal job and return to be the savior of Stanford's hoops program after AD Bob Bowlsby's epic screwup. It could happen... right?

Prediction: 9th