1) Coach Herb Sendek reportedly installed new rules to make the team play faster. How is that working out?
Mauricio Casillas: So during the offseason, coach Sendek made his players practice with an NBA shot clock. He's said many times before that he believes he has one of the fastest back courts in the country, and there have been countless times when the team has proven that. Jahii Carson and Shaquielle McKissic are deadly in transition, and they make teams pay. At times though, it works against the team because they take tough shots rather than let their plays develop.
2) Is there any way to stop Jahii Carson? Have there been any defensive wrinkles that give him trouble?
Mauricio: Jahii Carson is one of the most dynamic guards in the country and it's hard to stop him when he's going full speed. However, teams have had success by forcing him to finish with his left hand at the rim. He's great at making circus-type shots (especially floaters) when teams try to block his shot, so the best way to stop him is to either make him go left or force him to take a mid range jumper.
3) Assuming Carson is going to get his, who else helps put up points? Is Jermaine Marshall recovered enough to resume his role as your #2 scorer?
Mauricio: Jermaine has looked a little sluggish in his first two games back from his groin injury, but coach Sendek said after Saturday night's win over Colorado that Marshall is feeling much better. When Marshall gets going, there is no doubt that he is this team's second best scorer. However, if Marshall is struggling, look for either Shaquielle McKissic or Jonathan Gilling to step up. Both of them are streaky scorers that can get hot at any point in the game. Gilling has also not missed a shot since he began coming off the bench two games ago. He is a perfect 7-7 from the field.
4) The standard counter to great shot-blockers is either to draw them away into high pick and rolls, or to go right at them to draw fouls. Will either approach work with Bachynski?
Mauricio: Jordan Bachynski has struggled defending the pick and role against quick power forwards. However, his long wing span helps him recover in time to contest the shot. Cal's best bet at neutralizing Bachynski is to get him into foul trouble. When Arizona State played top ranked Arizona earlier in the season, Bachynski got into early foul trouble. Arizona's front court wreaked havoc against ASU, and there was nothing back up center Eric Jacobsen could do.
ASU basketball vs. Cal 02/07/2013 1 (via Menir Pateev)
5) Like Cal, ASU seems to be a notch below the Zona/UCLA tier. What do you need to do to make a push for the conference title?
Mauricio: Arizona State needs much more consistent play from its forwards in order to make a push for the conference title. Shaquielle McKissic, Jonathan Gilling, Eric Jacobsen, Egor Koulechov and Richie Edwards have all gotten a chance to play significant minutes at the forward position, and all of them have been inconsistent. Arizona's front court is extremely athletic and talented, and the only way Arizona State stands a chance is if their forwards step up.
6) Who is the ASU player on defense that Cal fans should know about?
Mauricio: Shaquielle McKissic is ASU's best on-ball defender. He always guards opposing team's best perimeter player. Although he is slightly undersized he makes up for it with his freakish athleticism and relentless pursuit of the ball. It is Bachynski though that is probably ASU's best defender. At 7-foot-2, he leads the country in blocks and forces opposing teams to take a lot of difficult shots in the paint.
7) What does ASU have to do to win this game?
Mauricio: Arizona State is a team that lives and dies by the three. They are a much better three-point shooting team at home than they are on the road. If players like Gilling and Marshall can make some early threes and get in a groove, it will be tough for Cal to overcome.
8) What does Cal have to do to win this game?
Mauricio: The simple formula for defeating Arizona State this season has been by forcing Bachynski into foul trouble. Without Bachynski, the Sun Devils are extremely undersized and struggle to defend the paint. Bachynski struggles against quick and powerful forwards, so Richard Solomon needs to step up his game in order for the Golden Bears to win.
9) Predict a score.
Mauricio: ASU wins 75-68.