STANFORD, Calif. —
“We celebrated yesterday after the win and on the flight back,” guard Chasson Randle said. “But once we woke up this morning and got to the gym it was strictly about preparing for Dayton.”
The Cardinal are playing some of their best basketball at the most important time, winning five of their past six following a three-game skid that put their tournament hopes in peril.
This success has come after five years of struggles under Dawkins, whose job was in jeopardy had he not gotten Stanford to the tournament this season.
“We’ve been working for this since we got to the school,” forward Dwight Powell said. “We put a lot of hours into preparing for the experience we’re having now and the games we’ve played and the game we have coming up. It’s been a work in progress.”
It paid off last weekend. They beat the seventh-seeded Lobos 58-53 on Friday despite getting no field goals from Powell, their second leading scorer.
Stanford then used stellar defense to silence talented freshman Andrew Wiggins to beat Kansas 60-57 and get national recognition for the first time under Dawkins.
“You’re able to put your program in a different light when you’re competing on a national stage and everyone is watching,” Dawkins said. “You get a chance to show not only how well your players perform on the court but who they are as people. That’s what excites me. You get a chance to learn about my players what I already know. I have an unbelievable group of kids to coach.”
The Cardinal hadn’t even made the tournament since 2008 under former coach Trent Johnson, when they also won two games before losing to Texas in the round of 16.
Stanford has gotten past that round just twice since winning it all in 1942: losing in the Final Four to Kentucky in 1998 and the regional final to Maryland in 2001.