Stanford does not hold back with 2014-15 non-conference challenges

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Johnny Dawkins has a big year ahead and isn't lightening up the schedule. (USATSI)

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Going to be a fun and interesting season for Stanford. Chasson Randle could be a First Team Pac-12 player, and with the departures of seniors Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, the Cardinal will have some proving to do down low.

But expect the Cardinal to be back in the NCAAs. Coach Johnny Dawkins has scheduled with such expectations, too, and that's a good thing to see. The school announced its men's hoops schedule on Thursday. Stanford will play 11 teams that made the NCAAs last season, and the big games come against two of the best programs in the country.

The slate:

Nov. 14: vs. Wofford
Nov. 16: vs. South Dakota
Nov. 21: vs. UNLV
Nov. 22: vs. Duke or Temple
Nov. 25: vs. Delaware
Nov. 30: at DePaul
Dec. 13: vs. Denver
Dec. 17: vs. Loyola Marymount
Dec. 20: at BYU
Dec. 23: at Texas
Dec. 29: vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Jan. 17: vs. Connecticut

OK, so let's assess real quick. There are three road games. Nice. You probably won't get more than five or six schools from the Big 12/Big Ten/SEC/Pac-12/ACC that will match or better that.

Duke is a big get, if Stanford plays 'em. If not, Temple should be better. That TBD game is the second part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Barclays Center. Denver could win the Summit, by the way. BYU will be solid and will have likely preseason WCC Player of the Year, Tyler Haws. Texas will have a chance at finishing second or third in the Big 12. Myles Turner is a freshman stud of a forward/center.

It's not going to be the best schedule out of the Pac-12, but it's formidable, no question. Connecticut's visit Maples Pavilion is a return game from last year, a game Stanford won at the XL Center. That loss ended a 54-game home winning streak for UConn against non-conference opponents.

That UConn game had to be squeezed in an abnormal spot: five games into Stanford's league calendar.

At least this kind of effort from Dawkins is now consistent. Stanford ranked 13th in overall strength of schedule last year, per KenPom.com, and was 95th in non-conference. In 2012-13, the Cardinal came in 25th and 103rd, respectively, and 105/256 the year prior. Dawkins, many believe, was in need of an NCAA Tournament bid last year to save his job. He did two better: beating second-seeded Kansas and reaching the Sweet 16.

It's nice to see the team carry that mojo into next season and beef up the docket.

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