Arizona and Arizona State are tied for 3rd place in the Pac-12 standings at 5-3 and will play tonight in Tempe. Coach Bobby Hurley is 0-6 against Sean Miller’s Wildcats since his arrival in Tempe. The Sun Devils have a lot of firepower this year and are one of my favorite teams to watch play.
#1 Remy Martin 6’0″ G (So.)
#0 Luguentz Dort 6’4″ G (Fr.)
#2 Rob Edwards 6’3″ G (Jr.)
#45 Zylan Cheatham 6’7″ F (Sr.)
#23 Romello White 6’8″ F (So.)
Arizona St. has played with a few different starting line-ups this year and there is a possibility they could elect to go a little bigger and start either 6’7″ F Kimani Lawrence or or 6’10” F De’Quon Lake in place of Rob Edwards. Highly regarded Freshman Taeshon Cherry (7 ppg, 3 rebs, 37% 3-point shooter, and sometimes starter) has been in concussion protocol and may not play tonight. The Cats hope to return much needed starting Forward Chase Jeter (12.6 ppg and 7.2 rebs) for tonight’s game.
Offense: ASU has an uptempo–and at times out of control–offense that is extremely aggressive and has no fear of putting up a lot of shots with a “bombs away” mentality. They often just try to get to the basket, put the ball up, and chase for rebounds or will let loose from 3-point range. They are 2nd in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and total rebounds. Cheatham leads the Pac12 with 10.4 rebounds per game–not because of his physical size or dominance but because of his relentless pursuit of the ball, his superior athleticism, his iron will, and his take no prisoners mentality. With this aggressive style comes a lot of shots, a lot of rebounds, a lot of fouls, and a lot of turnovers. They are 1st in 3-pointers attempted and 2nd in made 3-pointers in league play and are 16th in the NCAA in free-throw attempts, shooting almost 26 per game. Dort and Cheatham are both in the top ten in conference for turnovers per game. 3.2 and 2.8. The Cats, by contrast, are 1st in the Pac12 with only 10.5 turnovers per game. These teams will attempt to impose their style of play on the other as ASU will speed things up and play at a frenetic pace while the Cats will hope to force a more deliberate game.
Both teams shoot about 36% from 3 but ASU averages about 4 or 5 more attempted per game in Pac12 play. The 100 kilowatt Remy Martin is shot out of a cannon and plays with a herky-jerky style that makes it look as though he’s receiving electrical shocks as he speed dribbles up the court and penetrates the defense. He’s the backbone of this team and the floor general. Rob Edwards (Cleveland St. transfer) is a lights out 3 point shooter at 41%. In league play he is burning nets with a 44% 3-point average. In conference the Sun Devils are averaging 77.4 points per game while the Cats are averaging 71.5. Arizona has struggled offensively and defensively without Chase Jeter, their lone post presence, and have given up 170 points total in their previous two losses.
Defense: Both teams play mainly a half-court man to man defense but anything goes in games like these. It would be interesting if Arizona–or any Pac12 team for that matter–decided to allow Dort to let it fly. He is only shooting 28% from 3 but has taken more 3’s than any of his teammates. Not guarding him past 17 or 18 feet might be unusual but it also might be better than letting him get near the basket with his strength and athleticism. It would be a bit of a risk as ASU feeds off of long rebounds and loose balls. Arizona would have to make sure to scramble for some long rebounds off of those missed 3’s. Dort is 2nd in league play in both shot attempts and free throw attempts and, one way or another, is gonna get his shots up. It’s easy to imagine that Dort has been approached by football Coach Herm Edwards to play linebacker for the Devils. If you haven’t seen Dort you’ll understand when you do see Dort.
Summary: The “Tasmanian” Sun Devils are a lot of fun to watch and this is certainly Coach Hurley’s most talented roster since coming to Tempe. He will be looking to get his 1st win against the Cats and it’s quite possible that they–especially if Jeter is out again–pound the ball inside with White, Lake, Lawrence, and Cheatham as Arizona would once again be grossly outmatched in the post. This ASU team has absolutely taken on the personality of its coach: gritty, aggressive, and fearless.
Washington seems to be the only team playing with consistency right now. The rest of the teams in the Pac-12 continue to be erratic and unpredictable.
The Cats are coming off their 2 worst shooting performances of the year with a 28% field goal percentage against USC and 33% against UCLA. That percentage drop is certainly not unusual given Jeter’s absence in the post. Chase is by far their best percentage shooter at 62%. Losing that–plus his size and interior presence–is a lot to overcome. Arizona is currently last in the Pac-12 in 2-point field goal percentage at 43% and, oddly enough, 1st in the Pac-12 in 2-point field goal attempts. This will be yet another difficult road matchup for them and it will be interesting to see how they respond after their losses in southern California last week.