Stanford is a deep team that has a rotation that runs 11 guys long. Dwight Powell, the Canadian junior, was named the Pac-12 Most Improved Player earlier this week and is the Cardinal’s leading scorer. Josh Huestis nearly averages a double-double and can impact the game all over the court. The backcourt duo of Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle are efficient handling the basketball and knocking down their shots. Stanford swept Cal, trounced Oregon and won five games away from home this year. Something to key an eye on in a close game is that the Cardinal shoots over 74% as a team from the free throw line with Bright and Powell at 80% or better.
Arizona State was 17-4 entering February. As we enter mid-March, that record slipped to 20-11. Losing seven of the final 10 games including the last four eliminated any NCAA Bubble chances and put Herb Sendek right back on the hot seat. The non-conference schedule was weak, ASU’s strength of schedule ranked 11th in the conference and the lack of significant wins on the resume is exactly why ASU has to win four games in four days to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Sweeping Colorado highlights the season with solid wins over UCLA and Cal. Jahii Carson was named Co-Freshman of the Year and was also a member of the All Pac-12 First Team. Carrick Felix was named to the All Pac-12 Second Team and, together with Jordan Bachynski, was named to the All Pac-12 Defensive team.
Four wins in four games over four days. Simple as that. Like many ASU fans know, the Sun Devils have a knack for really falling apart at the end of the season regardless of the sport. Herb Sendek has been a solid coach in his seven seasons in Tempe but there are no ‘wow’ moments despite having guys like James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph and Jahii Carson. Running the table will invigorate the fan-base and keep Sparky’s Huddle just a little less gloomy.
Johnny Dawkins: 5th season at Stanford – 93-72 career
Herb Sendek: 7th season at ASU – 118-106; 372-264 career
G – Aaron Bright (8.7 PPG, 3.4 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (17.7 PPG, 5.0 APG)
G – Chasson Randle (14.3 PPG, 37% 3PT) vs. Evan Gordon (10.0 PPG, 34% 3PT)
F – Andy Brown (6.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (14.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG)
F – Josh Huestis (10.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (9.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG)
C – Dwight Powell (15.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (9.6 PPG, 3.6 BPG)
Why Stanford Can Win:
They have a deep rotation, they shoot the ball well, they make free throws, they have solid big men, have steady guard play and are coming in to the tournament having won two straight games including a rout on the road against Cal to complete the season sweep of their archrival. Dwight Powell is a special talent and he is surrounded by a lot of guys who really know their roles. In the first game between these two, Stanford made 10 three-pointers and shot over 55% from deep – when a team that lives on a drive- & dish style, hitting consistently from long range makes them very hard to beat.
Why ASU Can Win:
It eases the mind to know that the Devils lost by only three points in a game in which they shot just 34% from the field, 30% from deep and just 50% from the free throw line and that is exactly what happened when Stanford escaped Tempe with a 62-59 victory on February 9. Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix need to use their outstanding athleticism and push the tempo down Stanford’s throats. Evan Gordon, Jon Gilling and Jordan Bachysnki have been streaky all season. Some nights you might get All-American performance from any of them and some nights you might get a cumulative seven points from the trio – you just never know.
Key Stat: Jordan Bachynski needs just three blocks to break the Pac-12 and Sun Devil season record of 115 set by Sun Devil Mario Bennett in 1994-95.As a team, ASU needs just five more blocks to break the Pac-12 record set by UCLA in 2010-11.
X-Factor: Defending Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis. Big men have given ASU a lot of trouble this season. Athletic big men have played like All-Americans against ASU this season. Powell and Huestis are athletic big men. In the first meeting between these two teams, Powell and Huestis combined for 35 points, 22 rebounds and 6 blocks on 15-21 shooting from the field. The Sun Devils, to counter, received six total points from Bachynski and Pateev before deciding to go with a small lineup for the majority of the second half. What Bachynski lacks in true athleticism is sheer length – he needs to contest every shot that comes his way and force Stanford into lower percentage shots.
Final Score: ASU 68 Stanford 65