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3 takeaways from Stanford basketball’s 80-70 victory over Harvard

Reid Travis looks impressive, a killer front court combo, and downtown difficulty.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament-Stanford vs Washington Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In his debut with the Stanford Cardinal program, Jerod Haase was able to help pick up his first victory as the head man in Palo Alto as his team won 80-70 over the Harvard Crimson.

While only one official game has been played, there were 3 pieces from the Shanghai performance that perhaps give greater insight into the the 2016-17 squad.

Reid Travis everybody!

He’s healthy.

Reid Travis’ rehabilitation was a success of the highest order. His body has regained its full physical form. He has returned to being the physical beast that made him a McDonald’s All-American. This aspect of his game shined on Friday night against a Harvard frontline that is impressive in its own right.

Travis was physically imposing and dominate. This was so much the case that it is hard to imagine that there will be a single opponent he could face in the college game that would be able to match up to his visceral long as he’s healthy.

He earned his way to the free throw line over and over again. He took 19 shots from the free throw line. He only made 10 of his attempts for 52.6% from the stripe — that’s actually a better percentage than his career average. Will he continue to get 19 shots at the stripe? No, but he could get 8-10 per game. That’s great, if even just for the foul attrition for his opponents.

In the end, it was a career-high evening for Reid Travis with 24 points and 17 rebounds. If Travis flirts with a 20-20, Stanford should be difficult to defeat. There will be a handful of performances like this from Travis in the 2016-17 season.

And even when it isn’t so robust on the box score, playing against Travis is not very fun. Battling him for floor position, boxing him out for rebounds, bumping bodies with him in the post, and trying to keep up with him as he runs the floor seem like a recipe for an irritating and painful night. It is probable that Harvard’s big men are traveling home from Shanghai like this:

The Michael Humphrey-Reid Travis frontline combo is awesome.

When Michael Humphrey and Reid Travis were on the floor at the same time, Stanford was sublime. They played winning basketball.

If one or both of them were on the bench, it resulted in losing basketball.

Against Harvard, when both Humphrey and Travis were on the court the Cardinal were +17 on the scoreboard. If one or both were on the bench, Stanford was -7.

Humphrey and Travis are the stars of Stanford hoops this season. On Friday night, every indication was given that the two impressive juniors are complimentary pieces to one another.

I suspect that this will become a trend this season. When Travis and Humphrey are on the floor together, Stanford will have real bite. It will be a menacing combo that will usually result in winning minutes of basketball. When one or both are on the bench, that is when Stanford will be exposed and vulnerable.

3-point shooting is going to be a problem.

So, here is my theory. Jerod Haase was hired as the new head coach of the Stanford Cardinal. He pulls up the career 3-point shooting numbers of his players and looks them over.

Player 3FG-3FGA 3FG%
Malcolm Allen 6-19 31.6
Marcus Allen 34-132 25.8
Robert Cartwright 12-36 33.3
Michael Humphrey 9-30 30
Dorian Pickens 61-169 36.1
Josh Sharma 1-6 16.7
Marcus Sheffield 17-45 37.8
Cameron Walker 1-6 16.7
Reid Travis 0-0 0
Christian Sanders 14-64 21.9
Grant Verhoeven 5-9 55.6
TOTAL 160-516 31.0

As a result of no volume 3-point shooters successfully making more than 37% of their attempts, Haase instructs his players to lay off the 3-point shot.

Then, in camp, Haase has a series of interactions as he tries to build shot discipline.

Eventually he is persuasive enough and Stanford rarely takes a 3-point shot. As a result last night, his control in this matter was on display.

Stanford only attempted 6 3-pointers. SIX! 1 of them was taken by Josh Sharma! Another shot from distance was taken by Michael Humphrey — the only make from behind the arc. Only 4 3-pointers were taken by the guards and wings. In 2016, that’s astounding!

Stanford isn’t a good 3-point shooting team.

If there were a weird Las Vegas Sportbook out there that had this prop bet: Stephen Curry single-game made 3s vs. Stanford single-game made 3s. Given that Curry recently made a NBA record 13 in a game and Stanford only attempted 6 in their first game with a returning collective of 31% 3-point shooting, wouldn’t Curry be the heavy favorite at like -600? Give me Curry, even at the terrible odds. I’ll go further and bet that Stanford won’t make 10 3’s in a game this year.

The good news is that Haase is allowing his players to run the floor and try to pick up easy hoops in transition. An element of the game where the Stanford ballers look sharp. That will help alleviate some of the downtown difficulty. But, on some nights, it won’t be enough.

There are going to be a few games this season where the lack of 3-point shooting ability will doom Stanford. Even as Haase’s squad actively avoids the behind-the-arc shot, if their opponent has a good night from distance, the Cardinal won’t be able to keep pace. It is going to be a problem.

All in all, there were a lot of positives from the debut contest. Stanford took care of business against a decent team. Maybe that’s change enough to already be appreciative of Haase’s imprint.

For now, Stanford will fly home and fight some major jetlag as they play 3 games in Palo Alto this coming week.