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8 Games, 8 Topics: Part 4
Courtesy: Brian Risso  
Release: 12/06/2013

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 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 look at eight topics that have emerged over the last month.

We’ve already received analysis from the media and the players. Today, head coach Johnny Dawkins gives us his take on the same eight topics.

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TOPIC 1: 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 15-2 record to date, so the Cardinal has an opportunity to establish a high RPI before Pac-12 competition gets underway.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “I think we’re making progress and guys are showing improvement through a challenging schedule. In the games that we’ve won, we have been in a very good flow offensively and the defense has been sound. In the games that we did not win, we weren’t as sharp offensively and did not defend to the level we want to. So, it’s very clear for us what we must do to get better regarding our offensive and defensive execution. Our goal with this preseason was trying to schedule different opponents and simulate what we may see in the Pac-12. Playing a team like Denver, which has elements of the Princeton offense, has some similarities to an Oregon State. An up-tempo team like BYU wants to get out and run, similar to Arizona. Playing a team like Pitt, I could see some similarities to several teams possessing size and physicality like Cal or UCLA.”

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TOPIC 2: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “The thing I’ve liked out of our offense, especially in recent games, is the amount of connecting plays our team is making. You look at our assists totals and they have increased steadily. That was an area in which we didn’t start the year off very well. Not only are we scoring the basketball, but I feel like we are sharing it well. We want to get to the foul line, that’s part of our offense and it should be a part of what we are trying to do. It shows we are not going to just settle for jump shots. I want our guys to play with an aggressive mindset and put themselves in a position where they are going to get fouled.”

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TOPIC 3: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “We have to keep working on our defensive fundamentals. There were some encouraging signs from our last outing against South Dakota State. I thought that was one of our best defensive efforts for a half and there were some things we saw on tape that we need to relay to our players. After the way we started last year, we really wanted to shore up the offense. So we made some changes there and that was a big commitment to put more time in on that end of the floor. Defensively, we didn’t cut as much time but we changed up our system a bit. Where last year we could devote all of our time to man, now we’re splitting between man and zone and teaching both to the guys. But this is an important stretch for us, because we can meet with guys both individually and as a group, and shore up some areas of concern on defense.”

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TOPIC 4: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “I’m excited for Anthony. Sitting out a year can be difficult but as you can tell, he really used that time wisely. He really watched a lot of basketball and obviously watched us play a lot. I can remember Anthony telling me several times last season how the time off was good for him because he could see several things that he wouldn’t be able to from the floor. So I think it helped the game slow down for him and he could see what we were trying to accomplish. He’s improved his outside shooting to complement his ability to drive. He has always been able to rebound; I think you’re just seeing it now because his minutes are up. The young man is really a very good player.”

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TOPIC 5: 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. He’s also 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “Dwight is our most versatile player, he could legitimately play up to three different positions on the floor, both offensively and defensively. So the challenge with Dwight is always trying to put him in the best possible situation to be successful for our team. He’s such an unselfish player that you don’t want him to lose that, because it’s part of his nature. He is a very willing passer. But you have to also have him understand his value and that him being assertive helps our team. So he needs to always have an aggressive mindset with the ability to pass when it’s there. He thinks so much about others – which I love because he’s such a great teammate – that sometimes he can forget about himself. Dwight is such a huge weapon for us when he plays aggressive and attacks.”

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TOPIC 6: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “The biggest improvement I’ve seen with Stefan is on the offensive end, where he is finishing around the basket and confident in the low post. He really anchors our offense in a way, as we’ve been able to hit him in the post when he’s open and he can also facilitate the basketball. Defensively, he’s anchored us there at times as well with his size and length. We are very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far and with such a tough schedule, he has still been productive for us. I still think Stefan has a huge upside.”

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TOPIC 7: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “Rosco brings us another versatile player. Similar to Dwight from the standpoint in that he can play multiple positions, is a very good shooter, good passer and rebounds the basketball. He’s also a high IQ player, so when you add him to the pieces we already have, he just fits in immediately. Rosco has a good feel for the game, so he’s easy to play with no matter what group he is out with on the floor. His playing experience this summer will definitely help him, because they did a lot of practicing and playing. For him, it was a great opportunity and I’m glad he was able to take advantage.”

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TOPIC 8: 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.
THE MEDIA SAYS | THE PLAYERS SAY

COACH DAWKINS: “Schuyler has been a nice surprise for us, mainly with his physicality and ability to run the floor well. He doesn’t mind contact and can rebound the basketball. Schuyler is a capable scorer in the low post who can make shots around the basket. Marcus is a real good perimeter defender who can put pressure on the basketball, and he’s also good in passing lanes. With his good first step, Marcus can really attack the basket on offense, finish and make plays for others. Malcolm has played the 1 and will be able to back up at that position for us at times. He’s also a very good perimeter defender, rebounds the ball better than you think he can for a small guard and finishes well at the basket.”


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