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8 Games, 8 Topics: Part 1
Courtesy: Brian Risso  
Release: 12/03/2013

STANFORD, Calif.- Nearly one month into the 2013-14 campaign, Stanford has chalked up a 6-2 record heading into its annual extended break for final exams.

Fresh off a 92-60 rout of South Dakota State on Sunday night, the Cardinal will have the next 12 days off before hosting UC Davis on Saturday, Dec. 14.

Four non-conference games remain before the Pac-12 opener against California on Jan. 2 at Maples Pavilion.

With eight games in the books, it’s time to take a quick look at eight storylines that have developed over the last month.

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This year’s nonconference schedule was specifically designed to challenge the Cardinal early and often. The two featured games – Connecticut (Dec. 18) and Michigan (Dec. 21) – will be played three days apart in what figures to be a grueling East Coast road swing. Both teams have been ranked in the top-25 all season, with the Huskies on the verge of cracking the top-10. Stanford defeated Bucknell in the season opener before dropping a 112-103 shootout to BYU. After responding with victories over Northwestern and Denver, the Cardinal claimed a runner-up finish in the Progressive Legends Classic, falling to Pittsburgh in the championship game following a semifinal win over Houston. That bitter taste was quickly wiped away with the 92-60 rout of South Dakota State. BYU and Pittsburgh have posted a combined 13-2 record to date, so the Cardinal has an opportunity to establish a high RPI before Pac-12 competition gets underway.

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At this point last year, Stanford was averaging 69.1 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent overall and 27.0 percent from three-point territory. That’s a sharp contrast to this season’s first eight games, in which the Cardinal has averaged 81.8 points while connecting on 49.5 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from long distance. Stanford has scored at least 70 points in six games and already recorded four 50-point halves, a feat the Cardinal accomplished only twice last year overall. The reason? An experienced starting five that is capable of reaching double digits every time out. Chasson Randle’s 18.5 points leads the way while Anthony Brown isn’t far behind with a 16.5 clip. Dwight Powell (15.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Josh Huestis (11.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg) are once again posing matchup problems in the post while Stefan Nastic (7.8 ppg) has made the most of his minutes at the five spot. Meanwhile, Stanford continues to excel from the charity stripe, having made 71.0 percent while averaging 25 tries per game.

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It’s no secret that Stanford must improve on the defensive end, where opponents are averaging 73.8 points per game and shooting 41.8 percent overall. It’s an area that will surely become a focal point during the 12-day break, as head coach Johnny Dawkins has always required his club to maintain a strong defensive identity. BYU and Pittsburgh are likely NCAA Tournament teams, but the Cardinal was not pleased with surrendering 112 and 88 points, respectively, to those opponents. Ironically, the Cardinal has produced strong second-half defensive performances in five of its six victories, breaking open games that were competitive one-possession contests at halftime. That alone shows this team is capable of tightening up the defense when it counts. Stanford is coming off perhaps its best effort of the year, limiting South Dakota State to just 60 points on 33.8 percent shooting while forcing 15 Jackrabbit turnovers.

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Returning to action after missing all but four games last year due to a hip injury, Anthony Brown has carried Stanford for much of the early going. The only Cardinal player to score in double figures in all eight games, Brown is averaging 16.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. More impressively, Brown’s blistering 59.4 percent clip (19-32) from three-point territory currently ranks eighth in the nation. His slashing, attacking style of play has resulted in an 80.6 percent (25-31) ledger from the foul line. A 2011 Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection, Brown provides Stanford with added length and athleticism while also serving as a terrific perimeter defender. It’s an element that the Cardinal missed greatly last season, and the upcoming two-week break is about the only defense Brown has encountered so far.

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Dwight Powell is going to put up gaudy scoring and rebounding totals throughout the year. It’s just what he does. Through eight games, he checks in at 15.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest while his free throw percentage (62.9) is slightly behind last season’s pace. Powell has basically picked up where he left off last year, showcasing the type of dynamic all-around game everyone expected when he first arrived on The Farm. However, two underrated parts of his game, which he showed flashes of last year, have looked very impressive early on. For a 6-10 forward, Powell is an excellent passer. He’s dished out a team-best 31 assists while committing only 24 turnovers. Along those same lines, Powell has racked up a team-best 12 steals, seven of which came over the first three games. Powell ranked third on the squad in those same two categories last year, so his production this year is no fluke.

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Playing regularly for basically the first time in his career, Stefan Nastic is averaging 7.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in eight starts. Nastic has reached double figures in scoring four times, a feat he had accomplished only twice overall in 53 career games entering this year. He’s shooting 60.0 percent overall, scoring the majority of his buckets on putbacks or high-percentage shots inside the paint. During Stanford’s victory over Houston last week, Nastic poured in a career-high 14 points on 4-5 shooting while finishing 6-9 from the foul line. For a 6-11 center, Nastic is a capable free throw shooter at 66.7 percent who has a knack for frustrating his defender and drawing contact. Ironically, Nastic has totaled almost as many free throw attempts (30) as field goal attempts (35). On the flip side, Nastic has compiled more free throw attempts than rebounds (19), an area that should improve as the season progresses.

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Stanford is awaiting the lineup return of Rosco Allen, who has yet to take the court due to a stress fracture injury. The smooth 6-9 wing is expected back later this month and should provide an immediate boost once he is fully healthy and ready to compete. With Andy Brown already out for the year, Allen’s absence from the lineup has been even more noticeable. Glimpses of Allen’s ability could be seen last year, when he averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds as a freshman competing in 33 games while making seven starts. Extremely adept at getting to the foul line (56 attempts in limited action last year), Allen is coming off a summer in which he competed at the international level, guiding Hungary to a semifinal finish at the U20 European Championship Division B tournament. Allen, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, before arriving to the United States in sixth grade, was named to the All-Tournament Team after averaging 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

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Injuries have forced key players such as Rosco Allen, Aaron Bright, John Gage and Grant Verhoeven out of the lineup for varying degrees of time through the first eight games. With Andy Brown (torn ACL) and Christian Sanders (hip) already unavailable, the Cardinal’s depth has taken an early hit. The mounting injuries have started to translate into extra minutes for freshmen Malcolm Allen, Marcus Allen and Schuyler Rimmer. All three have shown ability to play at this level in spurts. Marcus Allen (2.2 ppg, 5-11 FG) has received the most minutes of the trio and is coming off a seven-point, five-rebound outing against South Dakota State. Rimmer (7.0 mpg, 5 rebounds) continues to see the court, used mainly as another frontcourt option off the bench to spell Huestis, Powell and Nastic for foul trouble and breathers. Malcolm Allen (3-4 FG, 3-3 FT) has generally looked ready to go when his number has been called and already has thrown down a dunk. Playing time should continue to be there for this group.


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