Pressure is on for Stanford to reach NCAA tourney

JANIE McCAULEY (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Dwight Powell is playing for his future. Johnny Dawkins is coaching for his.

While Powell put off turning pro to stick around Stanford for his senior season on a veteran team, Dawkins realizes the pressure to win now with his job depending on it.

Athletic director Bernard Muir has made it clear he expects the Cardinal to reach the NCAA tournament, something that hasn't happened during Dawkins' first five years on the job.

It's a make-or-break year for Dawkins, who scheduled a tough preseason that features consecutive games next month at Connecticut then home against Michigan three days later.

And Stanford certainly believes it will be playing in the top-tier tournament come March, with its top four scorers returning and all but two players from last season's team that reached the second round of the NIT.

''Absolutely, I think for this year to be a success for our group we should make the tournament,'' Dawkins said. ''We have the experience, and our kids have been through a lot. I think part of that adversity is what helps you. It's what you do with it. So our guys realize that this is a special year. We have five seniors, and so we'd like to see these guys leave their legacy. And so that would be a fair statement. I think that it's an attainable goal.''

Here are five things to know about the Cardinal this season:

POWELL'S RETURN: Powell, a 6-foot-10 forward, opted to stay in school to get his degree and further develop his game. Powell was a first-team Pac-12 selection last season and earned the conference's most improved player honor. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and was the only player in the conference to rank in the top 10 in both categories. ''It feels great to feel my class welcome me back. Coming in with them, we had a lot of goals of things we wanted to achieve and we needed to achieve to deem our career as collegiate athletes successful,'' Powell said. ''And not all of those things have been accomplished yet. Coming back, for me, it was extremely important.''

NAVY SEALS TRAINING: Stanford spent six hours on one September day training with Navy SEALs - on the ground, in the pool, in sand, crawling along the grass on their bellies. The Cardinal did basic boot camp drills, followed commands, learned proper techniques for standing, turning and crawling in a team-building outing. ''It was a challenge that maybe not all of us thought we could get through, but we did. And we did so as a team,'' Powell said. ''Also just teaching us that level of discipline and commitment that those guys have to get the job that they have to get done. And with no excuses. We can take away a lot from that going into our season. We got a lot out of it.''

EXPERIENCE FACTOR: No arguing Stanford is among the most experienced, not to mention deep, teams in the Pac-12. With its starting lineup nearly intact aside from the injured Andy Brown, Stanford is prepared for a challenging non-conference schedule that it hopes will set the Cardinal up for an improved conference slate. ''We scheduled based on the fact that we had a lot of experience returning,'' Dawkins said. ''I thought it was the appropriate schedule for our guys to compete against. When conference play starts, we'll all be 0-0 and we'll all be competing heavily for a Pac-12 title.''

ANTHONY BROWN IS BACK: In late November last year, Stanford lost guard/forward Anthony Brown for the rest of the season with a hip injury that required surgery. A redshirt junior, he averaged 8.1 points and 4.0 rebounds as a sophomore two years ago. He earned All-Pac-12 freshman team honors in 2010-11. ''Looking forward to having Anthony Brown rejoin our team this year,'' Dawkins said.

SAD FAREWELL FOR ANDY BROWN: In July, Stanford forward Andy Brown's basketball bad luck continued. He was forced to end his playing career after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee for the fourth time since 2009. This time, it was the right knee after Brown tore the ACL in his left knee the previous three times. Brown was coming off the first full season of his career, averaging 6.2 points and 2.8 rebounds. He shot a team-best 48.5 percent from the floor. Brown sat out his freshman year as a medical redshirt after tearing the ACL in his left knee on the first day of practice. He also tore the same ACL in January of 2009 at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. In August 2010, Brown tore his left ACL again during a team workout and missed the entire season.