Facing No. 1 Kansas presents numerous challenges for ASU basketball, but for freshman guard Luguentz Dort, Saturday could be his toughest defensive test.
Days removed from a Final Four loss to eventual national champion Villanova, all signs pointed to the departure of Kansas guard Lagerald Vick for the NBA.
The 6-foot-5 wing used the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a springboard going into his junior season, where his per-game scoring rose from 7.4 to 12.1 points in addition to career-high rebounding (4.8) and assist (2.1) numbers.
A candidate to prematurely end his KU career, Vick surprised many draft analysts and even coach Bill Self in returning to Lawrence for his senior year.
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Now, despite the losses of Graham and Mykhailiuk, as well as the addition of five star freshmen guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, Vick has become a multi-dimensional scorer, averaging over 17 points per contest. He’s taking defenders off the dribble and getting to the rim in addition to much-improved shooting from the perimeter.
At a 54 percent clip from beyond the 3-point line, Vick’s mark leads the Big 12 and is fifth nationally.
To contain Vick, coach Bobby Hurley‘s most suitable option is Dort.
Standing 6-foot-4 with a 20-pound size advantage, the freshman guard possesses strong defensive instincts and a high motor, a skillset that can disrupt the Jayhawks’ top perimeter threat.
But to do so, it might require Dort dialing back on his full-court aggressiveness. A signature aspect of his game involves defending opposing ballhandlers the length of the floor.
However, Vick plays over 35 minutes a night.
If Hurley opts to have Dort defend the senior, he’ll need to wisely conserve his energy throughout the contest. He gets around ball screens well and as someone who moves well without the ball, should be able to pick up Vick’s cuts and off-ball motions when he’s not the primary ballhandler.
The prospect of ASU playing man-to-man defense on Saturday is likely. In their past two games, splitting a road trip at Georgia and Vanderbilt, the Sun Devils conceded 20 combined 3-pointers, falling victim to precise ball rotations as well as drive-and-kick opportunities.
After having arguably his two worst performances of the season in SEC country before a crowd of scouts, Dort has the opportunity to rebound at home against the top-ranked Jayhawks and Vick.