Stanford was not ranked among the top 25 in the USA Today coaches preseason college basketball poll, but it did receive some votes, which is more than most Pac-12 schools can say.
The Cardinal received seven voting points in the poll of 31 coaches released on Wednesday. That would place Stanford 37th in the country, just behind Marquette, but ahead of schools such as Drexel and Miami-Fla.
More significant perhaps is that Stanford is one of just three Pac-12 schools to receive votes. That may say more about the conference than the Cardinal, but it suggests Stanford might be picked among the top three when the Pac-12 preseason poll is released early next month.
Arizona and UCLA are both ranked in the top 25, primarily because of their strong recruiting classes, so their standing is based more on expectations and that proven ability.
UCLA has the nation’s No. 1 incoming freshman class, according to most recruiting services, including ESPN, and the Bruins are ranked No. 13 in the USA Today preseason poll. However, there are questions whether highly rated freshmen Kyle Thompson and Shabazz Muhammad will be eligible to play this season, as an NCAA investigation continues. Most of the attention focuses on Muhammad, considered the nation’s No. 1 recruit by most recruiting services. If he is not eligible, the Bruins may drop a few notches.
Arizona had the nation’s No. 7 recruiting class in 2011 and backed that up with the No. 3 class this year, according to ESPN. Freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski is rated the nation’s No. 4 prospect by ESPN, and his addition is one reason the Wildcats are ranked No. 11 in the coaches poll, making them the highest ranked Pac-12 team.
Although Stanford is still in the running for the nation’s top prospect of 2013, Jabari Parker, the Cardinal did not bring in any freshmen comparable to the ones signed by UCLA and Arizona. Nonetheless, Rosco Allen and Grant Verhoeven are both top-100-caliber players who figure to help the Cardinal in the frontcourt this season.
The Cardinal is depending on the return of its top two scorers from last season, guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, to continue the climb that led the Cardinal to the NIT title. Anthony Brown, Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell are the other chief components of the team that lost Andrew Zimmermann and Josh Owens. Obviously, the Cardinal’s strength will be in the backcourt.
The Cardinal still seems to be several levels below the nation’s elite teams, such as Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky, which ranks first, second and third, respectively, in the USA Today preseason poll.
Stanford will have an intrasquad scrimmage that’s open to the public on Friday, Oct. 19, at Maples Pavilion. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with some dunking and skills activities that will include the Stanford women’s team. The men’s scrimmage is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The Cardinal men began preseason practice on Oct. 12. They play North Carolina Pembroke in an exhibition at Maples on Nov. 4 and open the season on Nov. 9 against San Francisco at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.