Answering Six Questions About Texas vs. Arizona StatePosted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 19th, 2014
In prepping for Thursday’s #7/#10 matchup between Texas and Arizona State, Big 12 microsite writer Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 correspondent Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) had a little Q&A session about both of these teams.
Andrew Murawa: Arizona State’s offense is dictated by the play of speedy point guard Jahii Carson. What can Texas do to slow him down?
Brian Goodman: This season to date, Texas has faced its fair share of dynamic scoring point guards in Juwan Staten, Marcus Foster, Marcus Smart and Marcus Paige, and more often than not, their defense struggled to contain these players. Based on that track record, I’m not confident Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix will be able to check Carson. The bigger question to me is how many of Carson’s shots will come at the basket and how many will come as the result of creating space farther away from the hoop. Joel Embiid and Isaiah Austin have been the Big 12’s best rim protectors, but Ridley is right there behind them. If he can alter Carson’s angles when he attacks, there’s a chance Texas comes out ahead; but if he can’t, it’s going to be a long day for the Longhorns.
BG: We know all about Carson. After the Sun Devils missed last year’s Tournament, it’s a decent bet that he’s going to look to put on a show, but Jermaine Marshall enters Thursday’s game in a funk over his last three outings. Specifically, what’s been different for him lately and how important is it for him to return to form in Milwaukee?
AM: For Marshall, it is simple: He’s a bomber that shoots 55 percent of his field goal attempts from three and strokes them at a 40 percent rate. But he’s streaky and also heavily reliant on his teammates – mostly Carson – to set him up for clean looks from deep, as 91 percent of his threes come off assists. Opposing defenses have two ways to disrupt Marshall: either disrupt Marshall himself, or harass Carson and keep him from being able to set up Marshall with those clean looks. And typically, when Marshall’s shot isn’t falling, the rest of his game suffers. As for Marshall’s offensive importance, sure, Herb Sendek wants him to find his stroke this week. But in the four wins Arizona State has over NCAA teams, Marshall was just as likely to have a bad offensive game as a good offensive game. More closely correlated with success against good teams for the Sun Devils is on the defensive end. In those four wins, the Sun Devils have held their opponent under one point per possession, and Marshall’s perimeter defense is typically a big part of that.
AM: Texas struggles to shoot the ball from deep, and isn’t really all that good shooting it around the rim or from the free throw line either. How will the Longhorns be able to score against a stingy Arizona State defense?
BG: The Longhorns rely heavily on offensive rebounds to score and will likely need to do so again to live to see a Saturday match-up against Michigan. Fortunately for them, the Sun Devils have struggled on the defensive glass and finished ninth in the Pac-12 in that category. Jordan Bachynski tends to sacrifice his rebounding potential for shot-blocking opportunities, so don’t be surprised to see Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Connor Lammert get their share of putbacks. Additionally, while Texas hasn’t made a living beyond the three-point line, they can get hot as they did in home wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor, so it’s something to keep in mind.
BG: Texas and Arizona State have some interesting similarities in their statistical profiles. Both teams like to push tempo, limit three-point attempts on defense, and rely on blocked shots rather than generating steals to initiate their transition games. In a game that’s projected to be very close, what could put Arizona State over the top?
AM: It’s almost cliché now, but the story goes that you need star power and great point guard play in order to succeed in the NCAA Tournament. And while Carson’s numbers and game haven’t really improved at all this season, he’s still a guy capable of exploding for big games. The Sun Devils are at their best offensively when Carson is an equal threat to score in bunches or to drive and dish to guys like Marshall, Jonathan Gilling or Bo Barnes for the perimeter jumper.
BG: Jonathan Holmes poses an interesting threat in that, while his stats don’t jump off the page, he can drive to the basket and he makes just enough threes that teams have to respect his range. What is Arizona State’s best chance to render him ineffective?
AM: This is, without a doubt, the Sun Devils’ biggest concern, as there is not really a player in the rotation that is an obvious match-up for Holmes. Gilling will likely get first crack at Holmes and they’re both roughly the same size, but he doesn’t really have the athleticism to be a great match-up. Meanwhile, Shaquielle McKissic has all the athleticism necessary to match Holmes, but could get overpowered around the lane and, in giving up three inches in height, could cede jumpers to the taller Longhorn. But, the ace up the sleeve for Arizona State is one of the nation’s best rim protectors in Bachynski. Sun Devils defenders can cheat up on the jump shot to a point, knowing that even if they do get beaten off the bounce, the 7’2” shot-blocker will be in the lane ready to challenge any drivers. If Gilling and McKissic can do their best to take away the jumpers from Holmes, Bachynski will making any shots closer in that much more uncomfortable.
AM: If this is as close of a game in the final minutes as is being projected, to whom will Texas go to get buckets down the stretch?
BG: Texas has a few different options to turn to in close games, but Holmes has to be the one Rick Barnes trusts the most at this point. He’s remembered for hitting a buzzer-beating three to beat Kansas State, and as the team’s leading scorer and one of the team’s best foul shooters, he’ll be the primary option should the game come down to the final seconds. Taylor and Felix are capable scorers, but I have doubts about Barnes giving the ball to a freshman or sophomore, respectively, with the season on the line.