It's been a rough year for the Fightin' Herbies. At 1-8 in conference, 9-12 overall, they've certainly had more of their share of downers than happy pills.
When last we saw the Sun Devils, the new-look Bears pulled out a win in Tempe with a crushing advantage on the glass, hot shooting from Allen Crabbe, and a fine all-around game from Jorge Gutierrez. Previous recaps are here and here.
Since then, ASU has managed just one win against Tulsa. After getting trounced by their in-state rival, Arizona, and getting run out of the state of Washington, the Sun Devils hosted visitors from the land of popped collars and fake tans last week. Although the W-L column is still unkind, they took UCLA into overtime before losing by one, and dropped a narrow two-point decision to 'SC.
Sure, they've still got depth and injury issues. But you know they're going to trip someone up. We just all hope it isn't us.
Fortunately, ken pom says we're going to win. Rejoice and let the power of math compel ye!
Both teams seem to be playing better ball than earlier in the year. But, my blue n' gold-tinted glasses tell me that our guys are showing more improvement. Although our veteran trio of Jorge Gutierrez, Harper Kamp, and Markhuri Sanders-Frison have been solid all year, it's the young guys who are growing up before our eyes. Brandon Smith has quietly developed into a steady presence at the point. Richard Solomon and Bak Bak are starting to provide nightly contributions off the bench. Oh, and that Allen Crabbe guy isn't too bad.
As before, they're still lead by their big three of Ty Abbott, Trent Lockett, and Richard Kuksiks. We had trouble containing Abbott during our first go-around. He's their 3-point shooting ace(40%) who leads the team in scoring(13.9) and minutes. Lockett continues to build off his standout frosh campaign as one of their most improved players. He's still more of slasher than a shooter, but is adept at using his strength to get to the rim and draw fouls. Kuksiks is their crafty wing forward who is most dangerous as a perimeter shooter. Jamelle McMillan runs the point, but he's more of a distributor than a scorer.
Earlier in the year, 7'0 Ruslan Pateev was starting at center. He has since been replaced by true frosh Kyle Cain who leads them in rebounding at 5.8/game. He's only 6'7, but has a real nose for the ball.
Jordan Bachynski is another young 7'er who provides frontcourt depth. Carrick Felix and Keala King are athletic reserves who were touted recruits. Like many young players, they have been inconsistent with their production all year.
ASU is young, lacks talented/experienced bigs, and doesn't have great production off their bench. We have a dominant advantage down low and should ride that all game long to set up our inside-out game. Although ASU's matchup zone is different from Oregon's pressing 2-3 and OSU's 1-3-1, the formula for beating it is the same: Be patient with the offense, don't settle for early deep jumpers, and take advantage of dribble penetration.
On defense, I'd expect to see us go with more man and even some box and one to try to stay with Abbott. Normally, I'd say go with Jorge. But, we might need his strength against Lockett. Smith did a great job denying Wazzu's Thompson, so he might have to be the guy. When we do go zone, I wouldn't be surprised if Monty goes big and uses Bak Bak's length to help close out on shooters.
As long as our guys continue to play tough, solid Montyball, and no one on their team gets insanely hot (which never happens against Cal), we should take this one. Let's take care of business and defend the home court. Go Bears!