Karen Ambrose Hickey/Stanford Athletics
Men's Basketball

Breakdown at the Break

STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford (8-1) is off to its best start since 2011, when the Cardinal won eight of its first nine games. 

What's working? Who's playing well? What can we expect moving forward? 

It's time to hear from veteran announcers Scott Reiss (play-by-play) and John Platz (analyst), who have enjoyed a front row seat all throughout the Cardinal's early-season success. All games are broadcast on, and the TuneIn app.

Picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12, Stanford is exceeding expectations at 8-1. The only blemish is a one-point loss to No. 18/19 Butler (9-1) on a neutral court. What gives? Reiss: "So much has impressed me to this point. First and foremost, the way this team is buying in defensively, and establishing its identity on that end of the floor. Allowing 58 points a game on under 40 percent shooting is just outstanding, as is the intensity with which they play. I've also loved watching the unselfishness of this group on offense, and their willingness – and ability - to move the basketball. Assists are up, turnovers are down and efficiency has skyrocketed because of it." 

Platz: "Several things. The contributions of all three freshmen, with Tyrell and Spencer having been spectacular at times on the offensive end. A defense which has kept each opponent under 69 points, with Daejon and Bryce repeatedly making plays and showing leadership on the defensive end of the floor. The hard work, physically, and the mental concentration that guys are bringing to a high percentage of offensive and defensive possessions. Most of all, it's the constant display of team cohesion and energy level during games. I am finding myself, while broadcasting, saying things like "showing a lot of poise" and "really busting it out there" more often than I can remember."

Building off last season's success, Oscar da Silva hits the finals break as Stanford's leading scorer and rebounder. What is clicking for him early on? Reiss: "Oscar spent the offseason not only working his physical skills, but his mental skills. The coaches challenged him to be more mentally tough, and he has risen to that challenge. Instead of one good game, one off game, one nondescript game, he's become a model of consistency – bringing it every time he takes the floor. To me, that's the biggest change in Oscar. He also developed an "attack" mentality, embracing his role as a primary weapon on offense. His drives are smart and under control, and his shot selection has been fantastic – which is borne out by his 62.5 field goal percentage."

Platz: "It's not just the excellent statistics - it's the manner in which Oscar is playing. I'm seeing both a high degree of concentration and relaxation from him on both ends of the floor. Not only is he spacing himself well on offense but he's also occasionally directing others with facial expression or pointing, in a helpful way. That's leading. Best new things are his drives - waiting for space to open up for a driving lane, not rushing his movement when attacking, using his body as a shield while moving with the dribble and then finishing with either hand. A potential new weapon is his improving "back-to-the-basket" offense."

Tyrell Terry is having one of the best starts for a freshman in school history at a key position and the word is getting out nationally. First impressions?  Reiss: "To say he is "as advertised" would be underselling him. I had substantial expectations for Tyrell, but he has easily exceeded them. From day one, he's been a leader on the floor, taking and making big shots, and making others better around him.  He is fearless and relentless. An undersized point guard who had double-digit rebounds in back-to-back games – including the Oklahoma win. What's more, his assist numbers are merely "good but not great," which to me, represents an opportunity for statistical growth going forward as Ty continues to acclimate to the college game. The comparisons to Brevin Knight in terms of potential long-term effect on this program are appropriate, and there is perhaps no greater compliment to give a Stanford freshman."

Platz: "Advanced feel and instincts whether dribbling, passing, shooting or playing off the ball. Ability to score from deep, midrange and at the rim, whether off the bounce or off the catch. Can create a shot for himself from almost any starting point in the attacking zone - generally, it's a decent-percentage look - and can make shots in traffic, while well guarded or when at an odd body angle. And yes, I've said it on the air - Tyrell reminds me of a college-level Steph Curry in the breadth of his skill set on offense, his ability to score or assist in rapid-fire fashion and his being more "we" than "me"."

Spencer Jones has provided consistency since moving into the starting lineup, especially from three-point range. What do you like about his game? Reiss: "Unlike Tyrell, Spencer came in without great fanfare and outside expectations. Frankly, I had no idea this guy would be this good. It starts (obviously) with the shooting. 29-53 (54.7 percent) from beyond the arc? Seriously? The stroke is pure, the release is quick, and most importantly, it's repeatable. Just a joy to watch. If that was all Spencer had contributed to this point, I'd be thrilled. But he's been a plus-player on defense as well, blocking shots with a team-high nine and pulling down big rebounds. Add to that a Terry-like swagger, and it's clear: dude is simply a baller with NBA upside."

Platz: "One can start with his being among the nation's leaders in not only three-point field goal percentage (54.7%) but also in number of made threes per game (3.2). He's sticking them from everywhere. He's also flashing an ability to block shots - not only without fouling but also as a help-side shot blocker. His rebounding numbers are fine and I think there's an appreciably higher ceiling for him as a rebounder and more generally as a defender. With his physical strength and body type, Spencer becoming even more effective on the glass and in defending bigger low post players could become a future situational matchup piece for Coach Haase."  

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?? x 5?? for @skjones24 against UNCW ?? #GoStanford

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No shortage of impressive individual performances so far. Contributions across the board but has there been one, in particular, that stands out? Reiss: "I'd give the nod to Tyrell's back-to-back double-doubles. The Oklahoma line of 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists might be more impressive given the competition, but it was the William & Mary game that really opened my eyes to just how high this kid's short-term ceiling is. 21 points on 8-11 field goals. 5-of-7 beyond the arc. 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals. He'd been really good to that point, but those two games were eye-opening. And again, the fact that he's just a freshman only elevates the infatuation with his play."

Platz: "I'll go with a team-related performance: the last few minutes of the Butler game, after Stanford had given up a seven-point lead and suddenly was facing an eight-point deficit. That comeback in the final 30 seconds was tremendous. Spencer's three-point basket, the defense drawing a five-second call and the well-designed/well-executed pass play leading to Bryce's dunk - putting Stanford up by one-point - had us figuratively on our feet at the broadcast table. Yes, the ending was not fun, but for players to remember the comeback, the solid defense on Butler's final few shots and even the pain of a last-second loss - these are good memory markers for future late-game scenarios."

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"Defense first" isn't just a mantra. It's in our ??DNA ??. #GoStanford

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Four games left before Pac-12 play, including Kansas visiting Maples on Dec. 29. What should Stanford's focus be over the next three weeks?Reiss: "They've established a terrific baseline for the season and, as I mentioned earlier, a rock-solid identity. The next step is to grow offensively. Daejon Davis continues to search for his role in the offense. He's been fantastic as a defender and a distributor (1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio). Now he needs to become the scorer he has been and can be again. Bryce Wills has offense that can be "unlocked." Ditto James Keefe. Isaac White is a dead-eye three-point shooter; how can we get him looks, and how can he do other things to keep himself on the court for more minutes? Hopefully, the next few games bring progress in these areas, because once Kansas comes to town, it is ON – for the remainder of the season."  

Platz: "For the freshmen, knowing that there will be ups and downs whether at practice or in games, and using your mind as a weapon to push past the downs. For the veterans, imagining ways (and trying them out in practice) as to how to get good shots for yourself or good assist opportunities for others within the structure of the half-court offense. For all, continuing to love what you're building, to tap into the feeling of fun that surrounds competing hard and winning more frequently, and to keep listening intently to your coaches—they love coaching you as much as you love playing basketball."