My answers to some of their questions about Texas should be up at House of Sparky later today.
On the whole, how would you describe ASU's season. Did you expect an NCAA Tournament bid coming into the season?
Coming into the season, most around Tempe believed that this would be an NCAA Tournament team. Herb Sendek had a veteran team and brought in Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall to pair with Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski. The Sun Devils were very streaky this year to the point where Sendek told the media after a game he isn't sure which team he will see on a night-to-night basis.
The Sun Devils were able to beat Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Stanford and Marquette this season, but also got beat by 23 points by Utah, lost on the road to Oregon State and most recently got beat by 21 points to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament. Arizona State comes into the tournament just 2-5 in their last seven games.
How good a player is Jahii Carson? What, if anything, have teams found success doing in slowing him down?
The term that I would use to describe Jahii Carson is explosive. The 5-foot-10 point guard plays with relentless energy and speed, and his speed is his greatest weapon. Carson does a good job beating his defenders off the dribble and driving past them to the bucket; he is at his best when he is attacking inside and drawing contact in the paint. He is one of nine players in Arizona State history to be named First Team All-Pac-12 twice. The last being James Harden.
Where teams have found success stopping Carson is forcing him to drive left and making him beat them with his shooting. Carson's outside shot is very inconsistent and he almost never drives left. One key has been putting bigger and longer players on him. Stanford held Carson to just 10 points on 4-13 shooting by having Anthony Brown, a 6 foot-6 small forward guard him.
Jordan Bachysnki, a 7'2 250 center, was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. What's the best way to attack him on that side of the ball?
Bachynski's biggest problem this season has been getting into foul trouble. He has a tendency recently to pick up two quick fouls and be forced to the bench for much of the first half of games. To answer your question, I would say teams are best off trying to use the pick-and-roll on him. Bachynski also struggles against athletic forwards that force him to respect their outside shot and play more away from the basket.
What do you think is the best case and worst scenario for ASU, in terms of how they would play in a first-round game?
The best case is they are able to get open 3-point baskets and they shoot well from the perimeter. The Sun Devils have yet to win a game this year in which they shoot worse than their opponent from the field. Ideally, Arizona State's bigs will stay out of foul trouble and at least give the Sun Devils a chance on the glass. Arizona State is the worst rebounding team in the Pac-12 and that is the worst match-up for them against Texas.
Worst case is that power forward Eric Jacobsen and Bachynski pick up fouls and Arizona State gets dominated inside. Against Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils had zero offensive rebounds on 30 missed shots. The Sun Devils don't get many second chances, so if they don't shoot well they struggle to score points. Arizona State also needs Carson and Jermaine Marshall to increase their productivity. In their last game, the two combined to start 0-9 from the field and neither scored a point in the first half. Arizona State's best players need to come to play on Thursday.
If ASU gets by Texas, do you think they have the pieces to make a run in the Tourney?
As far making a run, Arizona State has the pieces it is just a matter of which team shows up. Carson seems to play his best in the biggest games and the core of this team knows this is their last go around, as the Sun Devils start three seniors and will lose Carson to the NBA Draft next year. I could see this team advancing to the Sweet 16 or losing to Texas by 30 points. It just depends on which team shows up.