1. ASU has been relatively inconsistent, following an impressive 3-game win streak (Oregon State, Oregon, and Arizona) by a two game losing streak to Colorado and Utah. What have been the main reasons for this inconsistency?
Nick Krueger (NK): It begins and ends with the player rotations which for some reason Herb Sendek refuses to set this season. Players who hadn't seen time since early January such as Egor Koulechov and Chance Murray got meaningful minutes against Utah. Sendek likes to play the hot hand which has helped him in wins like Arizona when Jermaine Marshall had 29 points and couldn't miss a shot but when that hand cools off it gets ugly quick as was the case against Utah.
2. What are the basics of what Herb Sendek's offensive and defensive systems are?
NK: Sendek lets his offense flow pretty freely and Jahii Carson is in charge of a lot of what happens on the court. To describe the offense in one word: fast. The Sun Devils' goal is to get up a shot in 12 seconds or less after a rebound or inbounding the ball at the other end. If that doesn't happen it's a lot of pick and roll action with Carson, Bachynski and Marshall.
If there is an open shot from three, pretty much every player will have the green light to shoot it. On defense, Sendek has switched to a lot more man-to-man during the Carson era. ASU has a solid choice at every position on the floor so they rarely have a matchup issue and it's to the Sun Devils advantage to rebound and run out on offense which is more difficult to do out of a 2-3 zone.
3. Jahii Carson has been great this year and was a terror against Cal. What are the keys to slowing him down?
NK: They have to make him go to his left which he has trouble doing a lot. Carson also gets a lot of good looks off of ball screens so if Cal can hedge, cheat up and switch efficiently then Carson should be kept to a minimum. He hasn't been great from the field this year either. His shooting mechanics are fundamentally unsound so he struggles somewhat on his midrange. If the Bears can keep him out of the paint with Solomon and Kravish down low it should help tremendously.
4. Jordan Bachynski is leading the NCAA in blocks per game - is he basically singlehandedly shutting down the paint or have teams managed to have success inside despite his intimidation?
NK: Teams do have success against him. A majority of Bachynski's blocks don't come from the shots of his own matchup. Usually he is helping the help and can get a block when the shooter lays up a soft floater and doesn't see Bachynski lurking.
The offensive key to getting through Bachynski is staying physical. He still hasn't filled out his long frame completely and it is possible to back him down. Defensively keep him away from the area immediately around the rim, his hook shot is undeveloped and usually misses, most of his points come from dump off passes when Carson or another player drives the lane.
5. Who's one under the radar player poised to break out against Cal?
NK: Shaquielle McKissic had 12 points and six rebounds at Haas earlier this season. He has the ability to turn it on with his athleticism but rarely gets the chance given the pieces around him. McKissic and Tyrone Wallace matchup well with each other and if foul trouble hits both teams early like it did in Berkeley and the game turns into a track meet again, McKissic might be able to take advantage.
6. Has ASU done enough to make the tournament? If not, what do they have to do in the remaining games to get there?
NK: Absolutely. The Colorado and Utah road trip hurt ASU but certainly not enough to knock them out of the tournament conversation. The Sun Devils RPI currently sits at 34 so a home sweep of Cal and Stanford would probably cement them firmly in the tournament. They need to at least split these two games and if that happens they would need to split the Oregon schools as well but hanging tournament hopes on the last road trip of the season isn't what ASU wants to do. If they don't perform well in these last four games, they'll most likely have to impress the selection committee in the parity-ridden Pac-12 tournament, which has proven tough to do in the past.
7. Herb Sendek hasn't made the tournament since 2009. Is there any pressure growing in the fanbase to make a coaching change?
NK: The talk was certainly there to begin the season. This is the most talented team Sendek has had since James Harden left in 2009. The general sentiment was that if he couldn't make it with this team he would probably be on his way out given the fact that he was able to get Jahii Carson two years ago and potentially not make the tournament.
He has had his fair share of recruiting woes and next year's class is mediocre at best so the talk is still around but after a win against Arizona and bringing the team this close to the tournament, Sendek will be around at least one more year thanks to new Athletic Director Ray Anderson stating on the radio last week, "And certainly implore everyone else, anybody who has ever had any doubts, to give him full support because he's going to be our coach in 2014 and my hope is for the foreseeable future thereafter."
8. Looking forward, how does ASU try to replace Bachynski? Are there any star prospects in the recruiting pipeline?
NK: Sophomore power forward Eric Jacobsen has seen his playing time increase steadily this season all the way to a spot in the starting lineup so he is option number one but fits the power forward mold a lot better than center. He is tough but hasn't proven his worth yet with Bachynski out of the game.
Sendek knew he had to go get himself another big man given the current situation. He signed a local product in center Connor MacDougall to bring in next year. He's a four-star recruit according to Rivals and Scout who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs in at 220 pounds. He will compete with Jacobsen a similar situation with two bigs starting again might develop.
Score prediction: ASU wins 75-67. The Sun Devils have only lost one game in Wells Fargo Arena this season. I think they lose to Stanford on Wednesday and get the wake up call on Saturday afternoon to keep their tournament hopes alive and well. It should be a slower paced matchup if everyone stays out of foul trouble but a fun one to watch nevertheless.
Our thanks to Nick Krueger for taking the time to educate us on the ballers of ASU. Check out House of Sparky, SBN's ASU blog, for all your Devils needs!