Freshman dreams have turned to sophomore reality for the much-hyped basketball classes that arrived at Cal and Stanford in the fall of 2010.
The Golden Bears and Cardinal meet Sunday evening at Haas Pavilion, and only Cal guard Allen Crabbe among the 11 recruits in the two top-25 recruiting classes so far has met the lofty expectations. The others, to use Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins' words, are running their own race.
The upside is the Bears (16-5, 6-2 Pac-12) and Cardinal (15-5, 5-3) are locked in a wide-open race for the conference title.
But the wide-eyed visions of college freshmen are tempered by experience.
At Cal, Crabbe is the reigning conference freshman of the year and the team's leading scorer. It's been tougher for his classmates.
Forward Richard Solomon is academically ineligible for the rest of this season, wing Alex Rossi has played just 4 minutes in his career because of troublesome abdominal issues, guard Emerson Murray got off the bench for just 2 minutes last weekend in games at Washington, and guard Gary Franklin is long gone, having transferred to Baylor last season.
At Stanford, Aaron Bright has started every game at point guard and is second on the team in scoring. Forwards Josh Huestis and John Gage are contributors off the bench, while forward Stefan Nastic has played just 30 minutes in eight conference games.
But for the two headliners of the Cardinal class, this season has been a struggle.
A season ago, Brown and Powell combined for 26 double-digit scoring games. They have totaled nine such outings this season. "Both of them got knocked back," Dawkins said. "We expected those kids to be at a different level of play at this stage."
So did they.
Brown anticipated picking up the slack left by departed scoring leader Jeremy Green. He is shooting 37 percent.
"I've lost a little confidence in my shot," Brown said. "I sometimes overcompensate, which causes me to be a little off-balance. I've just got to stop thinking about it and let it fly."
Brown's left knee is mostly painless now, but the tendinitis in his right knee persists, and he will have surgery after the season to relieve bursitis in that knee.
Powell's ankle finally is coming around after weeks playing with it so tightly taped that it felt like he was wearing a boot.
"I'm definitely excited to contribute to the level I know I can," Powell said. "We're on a mission together. We need every piece of the puzzle."
Brown said he's never questioned his decision to be at Stanford.
"I'm not going to bail just because it's not going my way. There's always someone who has it worse than me."
Anthony Brown, meet Alex Rossi.
Since arriving at Cal, Rossi has undergone separate surgeries to repair a hernia and to reattach muscles that tore away from his pubic bone. Gradually, he's getting healthy.
"Every day, I'm a player longer and longer in practice," Rossi said.
Just two years ago, Rossi said, all of them were "the man" in high school.
Crabbe is closer to that role than any of the sophomores on either team. Even for him, the college game hasn't been easy. He fights with himself to remain consistently aggressive, and coach Mike Montgomery said he must develop the ability to drive to the basket or score in the lane to maximize his silky perimeter shot.
Montgomery knows his team's scenario is not unusual. Elite recruiting classes can be fragile collections, with players who believe the NBA will soon beckon -- whether that's real or not.
"The idea of bringing in a really solid class and having them mature together and then four years down the road ... they all know how to play and they've played together and the program really means a lot to them, that's just not happening much anymore," Montgomery said.
Rossi isn't giving up on the idea for his group.
"We can still do something," Rossi said. "We were really good players and we still are good. We've got to wait our turn, I guess."