by: John Chase
Here it is. The last home-stand of the season and the Huskies find themselves in a very precarious situation. The Dawgs are in a first place tie with California and are followed by a 3-way tie for second place, only a game back. The Huskies have a very small window in which they may claim an at large bid and the only way they will hold onto it is by winning at least 4 of the next 5 games and having moderate success in the Pac-12 Tournament. This all starts by taking care of business at home and thankfully, the Dawgs first face off against ASU.
The Sun Devils have had a rough season with an overall record of 8-17, 4-9 in conference. ASU has managed only 2 road wins, 1 in conference. The biggest reason ASU has struggled to win has been their lack of scoring. The Sun Devils had many close non-conference games where they were able to hold their opponents under 70 points, but ASU themselves could only muster up 60 or 65.
The Sun Devils have been demolished by just about every team in the top half of the conference. The 6 point loss to UW was the only loss to a team in the top 6 that wasn’t a double digit loss. Cal and Stanford each beat ASU by at least 21 points. ASU’s 62 points in a win over USC has been their highest scoring output on the road in conference. Their road high was a 67 point night when ASU beat the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Their road woes include 4 games where ASU was held to 51 points and under.
The Sun Devils are led by 6-4 185lb guard, Trent Lockett, who is averaging 13.6 points per game (Keala King was the leading scorer with 13.7 points per game before his departure). Lockett has had to do it all for ASU and is not only their leading scorer, but also their leading rebounder with 6.3 per night. Lockett is also second in assists with 2.2, first in steals with 1.5, and second in turnovers with 3.2 per night. Lockett has been battling a nagging ankle injury that has forced him to miss several games this season as well as limiting him in others. If the Huskies can get their defense rolling right and are able to shut down Lockett, the Sun Devils will be lucky to put up 50 points.
ASU’s big men have been terrible this season. Despite standing 7-0 and 7-2, Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski are averaging only 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block each. Their size is a good thing for Aziz N’Diaye who traditionally performs better against taller centers. Not too much else to say about them as their impact on the game tends to be minimal. The two centers will likely be dropped into a zone to guard the middle. If this is the case the Dawgs should not be afraid to drive the lanes as neither are athletic enough to be real threats to a lay-in or short floater.
The other scoring options for ASU come in the form of two forwards, 6-6 196lb Carrick Felix and 6-7 210lb Kyle Cain. The pair score 10 and 8 points respectively on top of 5 and 6 rebounds each. Felix has been of the better 3-point options for the Sun Devils, while Cain missed his lone attempt of the season. Both are capable free throw shooters who are making 75% on the season.
The main point guard option for ASU is 6-2 200lb Chris Colvin who is averaging a team best 3.5 assists per game. Colvin manages 6 points and 2 rebounds per game, while also leading the team in turnovers with 3.5 per night. He is a decent 3-point threat with a 33% average on the season, but is averaging less than 1 make per game, so our defense shouldn’t worry too much about playing super tight against him.
Predicted Starting Line-Up:
Trent Lockett 6-4210lb
Carrick Felix 6-6 196lb
Jonathan Gillings 6-7 200lb
Kyle Cain 6-7 210lb
Jordan Bachynski 7-2 243lb
Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
Tony Wroten 6-5 205lb
Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
Desmond Simmons 6-7 225lb
Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb
Keys to Success:
- Rebounding – UW’s shot has been off. OK, that may be an understatement following two straight games of 36% and 34% shooting. The Huskies tend to be better at home, but regardless, a low scoring game is in complete favor of ASU. The Dawgs can still capitalize on poor shooting by rebounding and getting the second chance points and putbacks. The Dawgs are one of the top in the nation in not only rebounding, but rebounding percentage as well. If the Dawgs finds themselves struggling to hit their shots again, it is imperative they recover the ball.
- Free Throws – I suspect ASU will try to slow this game down a lot. This means that our free throws represent a larger portion of our offense’s production. Our team needs to develop their foul shots and have the type of production they showed against OSU in the final minutes. The Dawgs achieved this by getting their best shooters to the hoop, namely Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox. The easiest way to put a low scoring team away is by making the freebies. N’Diaye needs to get on the Tony Wroten plan to improve on his miserable 35% FT shooting.
- Pressure Defense – The Sun Devils average 17 turnovers a game. 17. That is a big and brutal number. The Dawgs can exploit this to play the type of transition basketball they love and thrive off of. The ASU guards are very poor ball handlers and they big men bobble the ball around just as much. Look forward to some highlight reel plays if the Huskies can get into the open court.
The road to a 4th straight NCAA tournament starts on Thursday. Any loss is crushing to our at-large bid hopes and a loss to a team as miserable as ASU is an even more brutal knock to our record and resume. Percy Allen did a nice article on how many wins people believe it will take to earn an at-large bid for the Dawgs. Many people believe 5 more wins is necessary and normally I would not argue with that type of logic as it puts us at 22 wins. This season is very different. I think we not only need to win, or at least share, the regular season title, but we will also need to win one or two games in the tournament to feel confident in a bid.
Another factor that is tough to account for and impossible to change is smaller conferences having different regular season and tournament champions. Take for example Murray State. They are clearly top of their league and will earn a bid no matter what, but if a different team takes the league title then the conference will send 2 teams to the NCAA instead of 1, which leaves one less spot on the roster for UW.
ASU should be a nice warm up for a big time game against Arizona, but the Dawgs cannot afford to treat the game as such. This team has played down to far too many teams this season due to inexperience and it must change now. Get the Sun Devils down early and don’t let up. Make a statement, win by 40, do something that says we are ready, we are willing, and we want this.
Final Score Prediction: UW-80 ASU-60