UCLA Basketball: Previewing Arizona State Hoops


Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

After UCLA’s massive win over Arizona on Thursday night, the attention turns towards the other enemy in the state of Arizona: The ASU Sun Devils.

The Devils (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) have had a markedly improved season in 2012-13, with ASU winning non-conference games it should and with these Devils staying competitive with every team in the conference up to this point, with losses to Oregon and Arizona (although the latter team destroyed these Sun Devils).

Of course, ASU’s going to be running a shorter crew than UCLA will on Saturday afternoon. Although the Bruins will be without starting center Travis Wear, the Devils only run a six-man rotation unless it’s deemed necessary that they give their bench-warmers minutes.

Indeed, the seventh and eighth men in ASU’s rotation (in Bo Barnes and Eric Jacobsen) earn just a combined 14 minutes a contest, and recently only earned eight combined minutes in the Devils’ overtime win over a much-improved USC team.

As is the modus operandi for this conference, it seems, ASU will look to run against UCLA. The Devils’ offense is competent in this, but overall, it’s relatively average, earning just 104 points per 100 possessions, putting them just outside the top-100 in the country. They shoot at a respectable 46 percent as a team, but have seemingly alternated good shooting days with terrible ones. Case and point: ASU shot at a 50 percent clip against USC on Thursday but, the week prior, shot an awful 39 percent from the floor against Arizona. And though we can pick at the competition all we want, there’s no accounting for ASU’s 41 percent shooting rate against a lowly Oregon State team.

Defensively, ASU isn’t significantly more efficient at least in a relative sense — sure, they’re allowing only 93.4 points per 100 possessions but they’re sitting at No. 73 in the nation in defensive efficiency. However, what ASU lacks in points-per-possession on defense, they make up for in blocks — these Devils earn 7.3 blocks a contest, far and away the best in the Pac-12 and third in the nation overall. This is mainly due to the seven-foot-two Jordan Bachynski, a junior center that averages 4.2 blocks per game with a block percentage of 15.2, all while laying claim to the team’s highest PER.

And, if we’re honest, Bachynski has a legitimate claim to this Arizona State team’s MVP for 2012-13. Though he’s just averaging 9.9 points per game — as if points scored is the only thing that matters in this game — he’s shooting at damn near 60 percent from the floor and rebounds at the highest rate of all Devils this season.

Of course, Carrick Felix, a 6’6” wingman, has a claim to that title, too, earning 14.6 points a contest off of 52 percent shooting as a forward/guard combo, while also earning 8.1 rebounds a game at a rebounding rate of 12.8, fourth-highest on his squad.

Arizona State’s offense, though, seems to revolve around Jahii Carson, a do-all point guard that relies heavily on taking a lot of shots, taking 13.2 per game and only converting on 45 percent of them. However, he’s also averaging 5.5 assists a contest to boot, a number that can only be deterred by his turnovers which stands at a too-high 3.5 per game. In essence, Carson is ASU’s source of inefficient offense but the ball is in his hands more often than not, while he’s on the floor for all but four minutes every game.

ASU has weapons but they’re putting a lot of stock into their six-man rotation with the occasional sub. These Devils are beatable and UCLA should win by a few points so this thing doesn’t have to come to overtime.

Game time is at 1 p.m.