Sweeping Utah and Colorado at home was certainly nice but the Devils need to pick up some road wins to fortify their NCAA Tournament resume and they did just that by beating Cal in a thriller on Wednesday night. After building a 16-point lead in the second half, ASU let Cal claw all the way back and needed a huge Jermaine Marshall three in the game's waning seconds to force overtime. Once in the extra period, it was all maroon and gold as the Bears were outscored 17-6 in OT and lost their first game at home after winning their first 11 games at Haas Pavilion. Jahii Carson led ASU with 29 points while Marshall finished with 22.
Joe Lunardi is the guy everyone listens to about this kind of stuff and Joey Brackets has ASU in the tournament if the season ended today - that's the good news. The bad news is that no team in the country has a harder finish to their season than Arizona State with the remaining opponents combining for a 100-37 record.
Johnny Dawkins: 6th season at Stanford – 106-81 career
Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 135-113; 389-291 career
G – Chasson Randle (18.7, 2.4 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (18.9 PPG, 4.7 APG)
G – Anthony Brown (12.8 PPG, 49% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (15.0 PPG, 45% 3PT)
F – Josh Huestis (11.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG)
F – Dwight Powell (14.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG) vs. Eric Jacobsen (2.6 PPG, 2.1 RPG)
Why Stanford Can Win:
The Cardinal are a physical team with three quality forwards that are both great rebounders but also athletic enough to run the floor. Powell and Huestis are guys that do everything well and can create major problems for the Devils if they get going. The absence of Aaron Bright limits their depth in the backcourt but Chasson Randle is a star and Anthony Brown is lethal from deep. John Gage comes off the bench and refuses to step inside the three-point line but still remains a major threat. Stanford is a good basketball team with the ability to beat you in any way possible.
Why ASU Can Win:
ASU and Stanford played twice last season and split the games with Stanford winning by three and ASU winning by one. In the second game, the Devils went very small and tried to take Powell and Huestis out of their element and it worked. Bachynski played only 8 minutes in the Sun Devil win. With Herb Sendek now operating with two bigs in the lineup, it will be interesting what he does and how both Bachynski and Jacobsen handle the Cardinal bigs. ASU needs to spread the ball around and stay hot from beyond the arc to complete the sweep. Gilling and Marshall have been great lately and that needs to continue. Jahii needs to do Jahii things and limit Chasson Randle's dribble drives as much as possible. It will be a battle but ASU can win if they continue to shoot the ball well and stay out of foul trouble.
Key Stat(s): Since Eric Jacobsen replaced Jon Gilling in the starting lineup; it's been all good things for the Sun Devils. All three games have resulted in ASU victories with exceptional shooting from the entire team: 50% field goal, 46% three-point, 73% free throw. Jahii Carson has benefitted the most as he is averaging 23.3 points over the three games while the two players that flip-flopped have both elevated their games as Eric Jacobsen had just 35 points in his first 17 games but is averaging almost six per game in his new role. On the other hand, Gilling looks more relaxed and is putting up almost 11 per game while shooting the lights out coming off the bench.
X-Factor: John Gage; the Stanford big man is really just a big shooting guard and he torched ASU a season ago with timely daggers in both contests against the Devils hitting 75% from deep in both games. As a 6'10 guard, there is no easy match-up and Stanford will run plays to get him open. If he gets going, it's almost unfair.
Final Score: Stanford 71 ASU 60