Since Stanford's emergence in recent years as a top-20 fixture in men’s basketball, judging a season’s success has become more complicated. Never more so than this year. The Cardinal finished 20-10, losing more games this season than in the last two combined, and were blitzed in the second round of the NCAA tournament by top-seeded Kansas. But they finished second in a rejuvenated Pac-10 and won 20 or more games for the eighth straight year.
Embracing the inconsistency of those results may be the only way to nail this year’s team down, for it was inconsistency that plagued the players to the end. Freshman forward Josh Childress sums it up: “When we’re on all cylinders, we’re very good. But when we’re off, we’re really off.”
They returned only one starter from last year’s Elite Eight squad, All-American guard Casey Jacobsen, and had only one senior, point guard Tony Giovacchini. Happily for the Cardinal, junior center Curtis Borchardt was healthy and his play much improved after missing most of his first two seasons with foot injuries. The Redmond, Wash., native dominated the paint all season, swatting 85 shots to shatter the school’s single-season blocks record of 50, and leading the Pac-10 in rebounding with 11.4 a game.
Jacobsen, ’03, led the Pac-10 in scoring at 21.9 points per game, and was dazzling at times. Facing Arizona State at Maples Pavilion on January 31, Jacobsen lit up the Sun Devils for 49 points, one shy of Hank Luisetti’s, ’38, single-game scoring record. Eight days later, Jacobsen led the Cardinal to a 90-87 overtime victory over No. 13 Oregon with 41 points. He is the only player in school history to score more than 40 in a game twice.
But the games that most clearly exposed Stanford’s inexperience were three losses to USC. During the regular season, the Trojans beat the Cardinal in Los Angeles, 90-82, and at Maples, 77-68. Then in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, they embarrassed Stanford 103-78—the Cardinal’s worst loss since 1998. “I think they kind of got into our heads a little bit,” Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery says. “I don’t know that if we played them again, we’d do any better.”
What’s to come next year? That depends on Jacobsen and Borchardt. Jacobsen declared for the NBA draft April 3, and Borchardt was expected to follow. If they don’t sign agents, however, players have until June 19 to remove their names from the June 26 draft.
Whatever happens, Giovacchini says, there’s a silver lining to the season: “Sometimes the inexperience this year leads to a lot of experience for the next few.”
—Jeff Cooper, ’01