It's been a nice little wave of happiness for the Devils amidst an awful season – a team that not long ago scored just eight points in the first half in Pullman, these guys have gotten healthy, a little more confident and are playing basketball like a team for the first time in a long time. In the latest game, Arizona State played their strongest game of the year in an 87-80 upset of their archrivals that saw three Devils blow up in Carrick Felix (career-high 23 points), Jonathan Gilling (career-high 21 points) and Trent Lockett with a brilliant all-around performance (21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists to go along with ice-cold veins) and we haven't even mentioned Jordan Bachynski (11 points, 6 blocks) or Chris Colvin (9 assists, 2 turnovers).
If ASU played like that all year, we'd be talking about if they should be the top seed in the West Regional later this month. In case you were wondering, Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson combined for 8 points on 2-11 shooting with 7 turnovers and 6 fouls while Kyryl Natyazkho and Daniel Bejarano combined for zero minutes.
Stanford may not have floored the NCAA pundits like ASU did but Lorenzo Romar's gift basket to Johnny Dawkins should arrive any day now. The Cal Bears were a win away from locking up the regular season Pac-12 crown before getting beaten by their own archrival in similar fashion. The Cardinal are well coached and can beat you in a lot of ways as Cal found out in their 75-70 loss in Palo Alto. Stanford had four players in double figures led by Chasson Randle's 17 points.
G – Aaron Bright (11.0 PPG, 3.6 APG) vs. Chris Colvin (7.0 PPG, 4.0 APG)
G – Chasson Randle (13.1 PPG, 43% 3PT) vs. Carrick Felix (10.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG)
G – Anthony Brown (7.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG) vs. Trent Lockett (13.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG)
F – Josh Owens (12.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG) vs. Jonathan Gilling (7.0 PPG, 41% 3PT)
F – Dwight Powell (5.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (5.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
Five Things to Know About Stanford
1 – How do you handle Randle? The freshman out of Illinois has been on a tear lately and he really is the kind of player that can beat you from anywhere. In his last seven games, he's 24-41 (59%) from deep and if you saw what Brendon Lavender did on Sunday, don't think Randle can't do more of the same.
2 – Post players galore in Palo Alto; right now, the Cardinal have a post rotation that can go as deep as seven players with five big men playing good minutes. That is troublesome for a somewhat thin front line that ASU presents. If Stanford's bigs get in foul trouble, they just go down the line but if Bachynski, ASU's only real productive interior presence, gets whistled early and often, the game will be in Stanford's hands.
3 – How motivated is Stanford? Maybe this is a silly question and the Cardinal nation would be insulted if they knew it existed but at 20-10 in a bad conference with a championship run unlikely at this point, Stanford might not come out at 100% in front of what will likely be a crowd of maybe only a few hundred and that would be a big boon for the Devils who are finally starting to look like they are having fun and want to just keep the buzz going as long as they can.
4 – Free Throws; it's no secret that clutch foul-shooting is a huge key to winning close games and Stanford has no one shooting over 75% from the stripe and only shoot 65% from the line as a team. This is big in late game situations when teams are fouling anyone to stop the clock. If the game is close late, Stanford has some good shooters but none that are absolute assassins.
5 – Can you imagine if ASU wins this game and Cal has to beat ASU to keep their tournament hopes alive? The Devils will be even more confident and Cal will be terrified. That's just a fun scenario to think about.
How ASU Wins:
How doesn't ASU win is the real question? This team is hot fire right now and can't be stopped. Two in a row? Win one more and that's we like to call a winning streak. It has happened before. The scariest team to face is the team with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
This team has taken 30 games to gel and they might give Stanford a lot of trouble. Teams that shoot well from beyond the arc really hurt ASU and Stanford usually isn't wowing anyone from three-point land. If ASU can push the tempo like they did against Arizona, Stanford will be out of their element and can be had.
I don't think the Devils will have another trio of 20-point scorers but ASU is as confident as ever right now and that is something to keep your eye on. Upset Special twice in a row?! I think so.
Final Score – ASU 71 Stanford 68