STANFORD, Calif. (AP) The status of Johnny Dawkins' job at Stanford seemed shaky most of last season until a surprising run to the NCAA tournament's round of 16 quieted his critics.
At least for a little while.
Dawkins, who signed an undisclosed contract extension in September, knows the noise around him will only remain at bay as long as the Cardinal keep winning deep into March. And he believes they're poised to do just that this season - and beyond.
''It's about standards, you know? Last year, we were able to set the bar. What we want to do is never take that for granted,'' Dawkins said. ''You have to have standards to meet or exceed what you've accomplished. That's what we try to give our guys. Hopefully, that can become our culture.''
After missing the tournament his first five seasons on The Farm, Dawkins finally has Stanford where he wanted all along. Staying there might be just as difficult.
The Cardinal had two players - forwards Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell - taken in the NBA draft, leaving point guard Chasson Randle without his best big men. Spot-up shooter Anthony Brown returns as Randle's wingman, and center Stefan Nastic will try to replace the talent lost down low.
Where the rest of the production comes from is uncertain.
Reid Travis, a McDonald's All-American from Minneapolis, is expected to compete for the starting job at power forward. Rosco Allen, Malcolm Allen and Grant Verhoeven are all coming back from injuries and should help shoulder Stanford's load.
Dawkins will rely on Randle, though, to bring it all together. He's asking his senior point guard to be more of a distributer and playmaker for his teammates.
''I'm looking forward to sharing the load,'' Randle said. ''It's something I've been conscious about.''
Here are some things to watch with Stanford this season:
RANDLE'S TEAM: The first-team Pac-12 point guard is one of the best scorers in the country, able to get his own shot almost anytime he wants. But can he create for others? Randle led Stanford with 18.8 points per game last season, shooting 47.4 percent from the floor. He averaged just 2.1 assists.
TOUGH SCHEDULE: The non-conference schedule could launch Stanford's season and impress the tournament committee. Or, it could wreck the team's confidence and postseason resume. The Cardinal are in line to play UNLV in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York and either Duke or Temple should they advance. Stanford also plays out-of-conference games at Texas, BYU and DePaul and at home against defending national champion Connecticut.
TALENTED TRAVIS: Dawkins' recruiting class is led by the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Travis, the rare type of freshman with the physical gifts to contribute immediately. During a physical examination in June, though, doctors discovered a problem in his knee that required arthroscopic surgery. Dawkins said Travis is back and getting into shape now.
NASTIC'S CONTRIBUTIONS: The fifth-year senior is Stanford's most experienced man in the middle. The 6-foot-11, 245-pound center averaged 7.4 points and 2.8 rebounds last season but will need to give the Cardinal more on both sides of the floor to offset the losses of Powell and Huestis.
BROWN'S STROKE: The streaky shooting guard is Randle's most reliable option on the outside. He averaged 12.3 points and five rebounds last season, shooting 47.5 percent, including 45.3 percent from 3-point range. He should have more opportunities to shoot this season with Stanford likely to become more of a perimeter-oriented team.