Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona State in the Wooden LegacyPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 27th, 2013
With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: Don’t look now, but Arizona State may have, to date, the best resume in the Pac-12. They’ve taken care of business against the dregs of their schedule; they scored a solid road win over an underachieving UNLV team; and they grabbed a good win over Marquette earlier this week. With Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall making for a great one-two punch in the backcourt and with nearly everybody else on the roster performing better than average thus far, this is one fearsome offensive team.
First Round Preview: Fittingly, the Sun Devils kick off play in Fullerton on Thanksgiving Day against arguably the most fearsome offensive team in the nation, Doug McDermott’s Creighton squad. Now in his senior year and even with opponents going out of their way to game plan for him, McDermott just keeps marching along — knocking down threes, scoring in the paint, getting to the line and just generally making buckets — he’s scored more than 30 points in half of his games this season and is averaging 27.5 PPG on the season. But while McDermott is clearly the straw the stirs the Bluejays’ drink, there are plenty of other options to keep opponents honest. Fellow senior Ethan Wragge has drilled 14 of his 25 (56%) attempts from behind the arc. Junior point guard Austin Chatman has knocked down 58.3 percent of his threes and is third on the team in scoring with an 11.0 PPG average despite mostly looking to get teammates involved. And senior Grant Gibbs is once again the glue guy for this squad, averaging just four points a game but handing out almost six assists per night and providing the best individual defense on the team. However, we’ve seen this story from Creighton before: great O, poor D. For the Bluejays to really be considered a threat on the national stage, they’ve got to step it up defensively, and in this area the Sun Devils will give them quite a test. Ideally, as a college basketball fan, you’d want to see this game turn into a second half shootout, with McDermott and Carson trading blows on opposite ends of the floor. But from a coaching perspective, both Greg McDermott and Herb Sendek will be more interested in how their respective defenses compete against elite offensive competition. Either way, avoid the turkey hangover to tune in for the nightcap on Thursday evening.
Potential Later Round Matchup: This is something of a unique tournament in that the best possible match-up in the tournament is the above first round game. Still, if things go to form, San Diego State would be awaiting the winner of that Creighton/Arizona State match-up in Friday’s semifinal, with possibly Marquette or George Washington lingering in Sunday’s final. A Marquette/Arizona State final would make for the second time those two teams have played in the span of six days, with the Sun Devils holding off the Golden Eagles in Tempe on Monday night for a 79-77 victory.
Outlook: For the Sun Devils to add to their impressive resume this weekend, it is absolutely essential that they win their opening round game. If they strike out in that one, their remaining match-ups for the weekend could be against College of Charleston and maybe Miami (FL). Even if they get wins in those games, those teams’ RPIs won’t do a whole lot to help them. On the flip side, however, if they get past Creighton (which would be a mild upset), they’re probably the favorite for the rest of this tournament, although every step of the way in the winner’s bracket appears to be tough.