Tonight, at 8:40 pm, the ASU men’s basketball team tips off against Stanford in the PAC-12 tournament.
This is a critical game for ASU. According to most bracketologists, the Sun Devils are in a good position right now for making the NCAA tournament. Right now. Translation: ASU is not a lock for the Big Dance. If they lose tonight, there will be justification to leave them out.
With Oregon surging right now, the Ducks are probably in, even if they don’t get the automatic bid from winning the conference tournament. So, there will be pressure put on the selection committee to decide whether or not to allow seven PAC-12 teams into the tournament. If they decide that they will only allow six, (if Oregon is in) ASU might be out.
Piling on to that pressure, ASU’s opponent tonight, Stanford, is a pretty good basketball team. During the season, ASU and Stanford split, with both teams winning at home. Both of those games were well-played, close contests.
Here are some keys to victory for ASU tonight. Some are obvious, but nonetheless crucial for a win.
1) Battle on the Boards
A trend since Christmas, ASU has been out-rebounded in nearly every game they’ve played–even the games that they’ve won. That’s living dangerously. The Sun Devils cannot continue this trend. Every basketball fan knows that rebounding has as much to do with effort as it has to do with height and jumping ability. ASU cannot lose the “effort” battle. They have the players to be a good rebounding team.
2) Bachynski Must be a Factor
It’s been alluded to once or twice in the last couple of weeks. This is tournament time. And tournament time requires star players to shine. Center Jordan Bachynski is one of those stars that needs to shine tonight. He doesn’t need to take over the game or be the leading scorer. But he has to make a significant contribution. He absolutely must stay out of foul trouble. And he must convert the close-in shots and put-backs he’s been struggling to hit lately. Of course, he must also be effective from the free throw line and be his typical shot-blocking threat. It’s a lot to ask, but he’s done it before.
3) Jahii Needs to be the Vegas Jahii
As of now, it’s not known whether sophomore point guard Jahii Carson will be defending Stanford point guard Chasson Randle. It’s a good bet that he will. It’s also a good bet that Randle will be guarding Carson. If that’s the case, it will be an epic battle to watch. All matchups are a” game within a game”. But this one is huge. Both Carson and Randle are the engines for their team.
Carson has played well in Las Vegas. He’ll be needed again tonight and for the rest of the tournament. He must do a little bit of everything tonight. He’s got to score (inside and outside), he’s got to penetrate and find his open teammates, and finally he’s got to contain Randle. That’s a tall order. But again, being the star of this team, if ASU wants to win, Carson has to deliver.
4) Role Players Must Shoot Well
In Basketball, shooting isn’t everything, but it’s pretty darned important. For this Sun Devil team, the shooting of the role players is critical. Within reason, Carson and Bachynski have been solid all year-with similar statistics and performances every week. The contributions of the role players is the dynamic that has been inconsistent. Any ASU fan knows that if forwards Jermaine Marshall and Jonathan Gilling are hitting their shots, ASU is almost impossible to defend. Most teams develop their defensive game plan to stop Carson and Bachynski. (Perhaps Marshall as well). They take their chances with everybody else. For ASU to win, Gilling, Barnes, and McKissic cannot have an “off night” or be a non-factor. They have to score and take care of the ball.
It’s a big game for the Sun Devils. It’s big for the fans and students as well, who want to cheer for their team in the NCAA tournament. For that to happen, ASU has to win tonight.