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Stanford vs. Harvard: What to watch for

Solving and slowing down Zena Edosomwan will be key tonight for Stanford in Shanghai.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Providence Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Jerod Haase era of Stanford Cardinal basketball begins in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China. The opponent for tonight’s game are the Harvard Crimson from the Ivy League.

Fans can watch tonight’s game on ESPN2 at 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

Harvard are led on the sidelines by their head coach Tommy Amaker. Amaker has been successful during his time in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his first 8 seasons, Harvard have won the Ivy League Championship 5 times and have made appearances in the NCAA Tournament 4 times. In total, Harvard hoops team under Amaker have a 175-95 record for a 64.8% win rate.

On the court, Harvard are led by Zena Edosomwan — a 6-foot-9 powerhouse big man from Los Angeles, CA. Edosomwan is a load on the boards. He averaged just under 10 rebounds per game last season. Zena is extremely active on the offensive glass as he pulled in nearly 3 offensive rebound per contest. In addition to gaining more possessions for his team, Edosomwan was successful at adding to the Crimson scoreboard as he average 13.2 points in 2015-16. In total, Edosomwan had 6 contests where he had at least 15 points and 15 rebounds. If he is able to have a big night like that this evening in Shanghai, it will be difficult for Stanford to win.

Primarily tasked with challenging the star Harvard center will be Stanford junior Reid Travis. Travis returns to the Stanford lineup have sustaining a season-ending injury after playing 8 games in 2015-16. Travis’ rehabilitated leg will instantly be given a significant challenge in game 1 of the season. Travis’ ability to use his strength to slow down and block out Edosomwan on the backboard and force Zena’s post catches to be at 12-14 feet rather than 6-8 feet will be huge.

Should foul trouble become an issue for Travis, Stanford will look to Grant Verhoeven and Josh Sharma to throw their bodies at Edosomwan.

The real trouble defensively in guarding Edosomwan comes in the post. In particular, Edosomwan will look to operate on the right block. He prefers to turn over his right should and he will dribble on his post moves nearly every time (97.3%). As a result the perimeter help defends should cheat down to double Zena not on his catch, but on his post move. If they time it right, there could be an opportunity to rake the ball away.

However, when attacking from the post on the right block, Edosomwan shoots an excellent 57.1%. This is the set and situation where Harvard butters their bread. The degree that Stanford can take this away will play a major role in the outcome of the game.

As spectators, it will be fascinating to see Stanford’s approach to scoring the basketball. Which point guard is going to be the most effective? Can Stanford find anyone who can accurately shoot from distance? Will there be any surprises as it relates to the rotations employed by the new head man? Are free throws going to still be a problem?

We will know a lot more after tonight.

Finally, the results of the game this evening may not be indicative of how this season will be on the Farm. Whether good, bad, or average, it is worth remembering that this is a goofy showcase of college basketball. It is happening half a world away. Given the debut of a new coaching staff, significant travel demands and the unusual venue — expect sloppiness and oddness.

Still it will be a lot of fun to have Stanford hoops back.