Tonight, the ASU men’s basketball team takes on Cal in Berkeley. The Golden Bears are having a good season. However, for ASU, this might be the ideal time to play Cal. Last weekend, they were swept by the LA schools. (USC and UCLA). Losing on the road to UCLA might is not a terrible loss. But losing to USC was an upset victory for the Trojans and gave Cal their first conference loss. In both of those games in Los Angeles, the Golden Bears shot the ball very poorly from 3 point range and the free throw line.
It will be interesting to see if Cal had a minor setback, a hiccup on the road, or if they are sliding into a funk similar to Oregon and Colorado. Both the Ducks and the Buffaloes started out on fire and have cooled off considerably. Perhaps the Golden Bears are in the midst of a little soul searching.
For ASU, they simply cannot worry about that. The Sun Devils are on a 2 game winning streak with solid wins over good programs in Utah and Colorado. Coach Herb Sendek has got to emphasize to his team that Cal’s recent troubles mean absolutely nothing to them. Furthermore, they need to play with the same aggressive style and energy that enabled them to snap out of their skid and win both games last weekend.
Specifically, Jahii Carson needs to stay aggressive on offense. He creates so much trouble for defenses, breaking them down off the dribble. It would also be prudent for coach Sendek to keep the rotation that worked last weekend; starting Eric Jacobsen for Jon Gilling and utilizing Bo Barnes early. This combination produced favorable results.
Finally, ASU should be mindful to exploit their dominance in the post. ASU players should look for center Jordan Bachynsky on every offensive possession. Bachynsky will be a handful for the Cal big men to handle. Defensively, the same concept applies; ASU should step out to pressure wing players, taking away shooting opportunities and “encourage” penetration, thereby steering them towards the conference’s leading shot blocker.
Overall, like all contests, the mental game is the key. The focus, concentration, desire and hunger for victory is what drives teams to compete. Everything else is details. The Sun Devils have a chance to make a run. And that run starts tonight in Berkeley.