Op-ed piece by Mike Slifer, editor of Devils in Detail
While watching friday night’s game between ASU and Arizona, I have some thoughts about both teams:
1) Arizona is really good on defense. U of A has some special players on their team. Their athleticism, height, quickness and length gave the Sun Devils problems all night long. Their style of man to man defense is intense. They get in your face and force you to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. But when you do, they are so fast, they cut off your attack with their quick feet. They deny passes to the wing and cover up backdoor cuts really well. Their height and length make them almost impossible to shoot over when they close out hard. This aggressive defense made ASU really uncomfortable on offense. Even Jahii Carson, ASU’s best threat to penetrate had a hard time getting to the rim. The Wildcats just did a really good job of cutting off the lane. Arizona’s superior athleticism also contributed to more rebounds. It seemed like Arizona had a lot of second chance points, while ASU was “one and done” when they shot the ball.
2) U of A is not a good shooting team. ASU coach Herb Sendek used a different style of man to man defense against Arizona. He instructed his ASU squad to play a soft, sagging-style of man to man defense–daring the Wildcats to shoot from long range. It worked. Arizona struggled shooting from behind the arc, going 4-16. They also were terrible shooting free throws, shooting 50 per cent.
3) Jermaine Marshall’s presence is ridiculously important. For a man that scored 29 points, Marshall had a weird game. In the first half, he appeared to be the only Sun Devil that could physically hang with Arizona. He was the only player that could slash to the basket and finish around the hoop. He single-handedly kept ASU in the game the entire first half. In the second half, Marshall disappeared for a while. With about 15 minutes to go in the second half, he became inactive and was offensively ineffective. Even in the first overtime, he didn’t do much. But he reappeared in the last two minutes of the game, scoring ASU’s final 8 points to secure the win.
4) ASU is a tournament team. Despite this double overtime victory being labeled an “ugly win”, this was a huge triumph for the Sun Devils. Unless ASU totally falls apart in the final 3 weeks, this win should push them over the top and into the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament. So, whether they won ugly or won pretty, they still won. They found a way to make plays when they absolutely needed to. That’s what selection committees are looking for. Make no mistake, ASU will have to play better, especially on offense. But they have the personnel in Bachynski, Carson, and Marshall to make a legitimate run in March.
More to follow later—Mike Slifer