Can Cal Men's Basketball Exorcise the Sun Devils?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It's a field trip to the land of strip clubs and drive-through liquor stores for our resurgent Golden Bears. After flirting with the hot seat thanks to a couple of subpar seasons, Coach Herb Sendek appears to have righted the ship and has the surprising Sun Devils(17-5, 6-3) third in the conference standings. What changed? The infamous match-up zone defense is out and electrifying true frosh Jahii Carson is in. Although Shabazz Muhammad was expected to run away with Newcomer of the Year honors, Mr. Carson isn't letting this one go quietly. With him running the point, the Sun Devils are second in the league in offensive efficiency and boast the 2nd lowest turnover percentage.

In a stark contrast to our last game against the Ducks, ASU plays at a more deliberate pace and doesn't tend to crash the offensive glass. They have plenty of shooters and like to take the outside shot. With their reliance on jumpshots, they don't tend to draw a lot of fouls...which is good considering they're the worse free-throw shooting team in the league.

Their new-look defense may not force a lot of turnovers, but it's fundamentally sound and anchored in the middle by one of the conference's best shot-blockers.

Tempe used to be a good place to pencil in a road split before heading to take your lumps in Tucson. Now, not so much. The Sun Devils have already knocked off Colorado and absolutely destroyed UCLA. It'll take another determined effort from our guys to pull this one out.

The upset over Oregon featured breakthrough performances from our bigs, a team-wide commitment to defense, and Justin Cobbs seemed to have rediscovered his mojo. Roll on you Bears?


Starters:

C Jordan Bachynski(Jr), 7'2, 250 lbs, 10.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg
F Jonathan Gilling(So), 6'7, 219 lbs, 9.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg
G/F Carrick Felix(Sr), 6'6, 197 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg
G Evan Gordon(Jr), 6'1, 187 lbs, 10.9 ppg, 2.1 apg
G Jahii Carson(Fr), 5'10, 175 lbs, 18.3 ppg, 5.1 apg


Bench:

F Eric Jacobsen(Fr), 6'10, 245 lbs
G Chris Colvin(Sr), 6'2, 185 lbs

Jordan Bachynski has really stepped up his game from "big, but raw" to a solid post who averages four blocks a game. Gilling presents a tough match-up with his size and shooting ability. He's their leading three-point shooter. Carrick Felix is athletic and talented, but inconsistent. He got national praise for his play against the Bruins and then completely disappeared against the Washington schools. Evan Gordon is another three point specialist. And Jahii Carson is the engine that makes it all run. Besides breaking down defenses to set up his teammates, he's shown the ability to put the team on his back and manufacture crunch time baskets. Despite being the obvious focal point for opposing defenses, he continues to put up 20 and 30 point games with alarming regularity.


Keys to the Game:

1) Build on good habits.

We're finally starting to look like a Monty-coached team. Running back and denying transition baskets. Rotating defensively. Boxing out and grabbing defensive boards. Flickers of half court offense. Win or lose, let's build on this.

2) Slow down Jahii Carson, but remember the scouting report.

Not sure if we have the horses to shut down Carson. But, alternating Cobbs, Smith, and Wallace on him might make him work for his points. Where we have to be careful is with help defense. ASU has plenty of three point shooters who like to use Carson's penetration to give them open looks.

3) Stay out of foul trouble.

Containing a dynamic guard like Carson is no easy feat. With Powers out and Bak relegated back to the bench, we need our guys to play smart and avoid picking up silly fouls.


Go Bears!

Game Time: Thursday, February 7, 6:30pm(PST)
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: 910AM

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