With ASU basketball among the remaining undefeated teams in college basketball, Texas Southern awaits in what could be a trap game.
Arizona State is in a similar situation to the one it experienced nearly a year ago. Like the 2017 version of the Sun Devils, ASU enters December as one of the upward-trending teams in college basketball, sporting a perfect 6-0 record with an upcoming road game against a top-5 opponent.
While the team that eventually became better known for its moniker, ‘Guard U’, faced little adversity in surging as high as No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, coach Bobby Hurley‘s program has played a number of close games and dealt with a bevy of injuries, potentially setting the stage for a trap game against upcoming opponent Texas Southern.
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The reigning SWAC champions come into Tempe at 3-4, most recently knocking off NAIA foe Hutson-Tillotson 81-76. Though the result does not mean much, coach Johnny Jones has orchestrated two marquee road wins in his first season with the program.
Led by strong performances from graduate transfer Jalyn Patterson, the Tigers shocked Baylor on opening night for a three-point victory. On Monday, they rallied from a 15-point deficit to stun No. 18 Oregon in Eugene, 89-84.
For Hurley, the absence of guards Remy Martin (ankle) and Rob Edwards (back) left ASU without two key contributors in the backcourt as well as reserve Mickey Mitchell (foot) for its last game against Nebraska Omaha, a 89-71 outcome in favor of the Sun Devils.
Though the talent gap between the Pac-12 and SWAC is generally large, Texas Southern has a number of skilled transfers from LSU, Auburn and Nevada. Among them, Patterson and a polished big man in 7-feet-2 inch center Trayvon Reed.
Reed and guard Derrick Bruce are the two key returning players from the unit that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
Hurley’s fourth season, his first with a team comprised of solely his recruits, has prided itself on an identity centered around aggressive defense and rebounding. ASU allows just over 70 points per game, right on par with the 72.7 TSU averages.
On the glass, the key to success is in limiting Reed and forward Jeremy Combs. The Sun Devils are second in the country in rebounding, grabbing just under 46 a night. Outside of the aforementioned duo, Jones doesn’t actively utilize a player on his roster taller than 6-foot-5.
With a lot of outside attention turned towards Nevada and the Sun Devils’ matchup with the Wolf Pack on Dec. 7, ASU can’t overlook Texas Southern if it hopes to set up a primetime showdown featuring two unbeaten teams in Los Angeles.