The ability to protect your home court can be the difference between the NIT and the NCAA Tournament and ASU's dominance at Wells Fargo Arena is why the Devils are likely to go dancing. After a solid victory over Stanford on Wednesday night, the Devils truly returned to form against Cal on Senior Day with an emphatic 78-60 win over the Golden Bears. Jermaine Marshall went off for 22 points while Good Jon Gilling made an appearance with 15 points off the bench. Shaq McKissic's baseline dunk put the exclamation point on ASU's 16th win in 17 home games on Ned Wulk Court.
In their most exhausting 40 minutes of play this season, the Devils raced out to a 20-point halftime lead before giving it right back in even quicker fashion before Jordan Bachynski secured the win with his second of three game-saving/winning blocks as time expired. Bachynski's block was the final blow but he also scored a career-high 26 points and just missed a triple-double with nine rebounds and nine blocks in the win. All that would have moot without that last block because Joseph Young's second half was jaw-dropping. Going right at ASU's defense by using a high-screen at the top of the key over and over again, Young scored all 29 of his points in the last 20 minutes before falling just short on his last attempt.
For all intents and purposes, ASU will be invited to the NCAA Tournament unless things go very wrong very quickly. That is important to note since ASU fans know that things actually have gone very wrong very quickly before and nothing is safe until the name is called on CBS on Selection Sunday. A split this weekend rests all nervous minds.
Dana Altman: 4th season at Oregon – 85-41; 496-284 career
Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 141-117; 397-274 career
G – Joseph Young (18.8 PPG, 40% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (15.7 PPG, 42% 3PT)
F – Damyean Dotson (10.2 PPG, 29% 3PT) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
F – Mike Moser (13.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG) vs. Eric Jacobsen (2.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG)
C – Waverly Austin (1.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (11.2 PPG, 4.3 BPG)
Why Oregon Can Win:
Right now, the Ducks are playing for their season and will have a chance to put up or shut up this weekend when two of the league's top three teams step onto the Pac-12's ugliest court. Arguably the streakiest team in college hoops this season, the Ducks started out the season with 13 consecutive victories highlighted by a visit to the Top-10 rankings before the wheels started falling off – losing eight of ten in Pac-12 play before fixing the broken motor and winning their last five games and playing their best hoops of the season. In the first game between these two, the Devils big lead slipped away for two reasons: Joseph Young and full-court press. Young's display was noted earlier but the press may have been the bigger reason as the Devils had trouble getting the ball inbounds and could not get into a rhythm at all. Oregon is the highest scoring team in the Pac-12 and they are always attacking in transition – if ASU is cold and struggles to find consistency, they will get run out of the gym.
Why ASU Can Win:
For the same reason that Oregon is so dangerous is the reason they may also be very vulnerable. With proposed brackets and extensive Bubble Watch articles circulating everywhere, the Ducks are well aware that this weekend is very important for their Tourney chances. There is a fine line between playing with urgency and pressing too hard and the Devils are playing to improve their resume and maybe even jump into a more appealing seeding while Oregon cannot afford to lose at any cost. It is safe to assume that ASU has worked on their press break this week in practice leading up to this game and Joseph Young cannot possibly get that hot again, can he? Bachynski again needs to impose his will against Oregon's soft frontcourt while Carson, Marshall and McKissic need to match the energy level that the Ducks will bring.
Key Stat: After last week's sweep, ASU jumped their win total over 20 on the season. In his eight years at ASU, Herb Sendek has led ASU to five seasons of 20 or more wins. In the 25 seasons before Herb came along, ASU had three 20-win campaigns total. The 20-win season has lost its luster in recent years and rightfully so but there is no denying that the culture surrounding Arizona State basketball has changed since Sendek came aboard. A lot of fans will be happy to see him go and it isn't crazy to think that more success could have been had given the talent the program possessed but winning more games than you lose will always be a good thing.
X-Factor: Jahii Carson; in a season that most people would say he has regressed a bit off of his stellar Freshman campaign, the diminutive point guard from Mesa confirmed that he will not return next year and these next few weeks will be his last as a Sun Devil. With 42 wins and counting in just two seasons, Carson's impact will never be doubted but how he leads his team in the final month of his career can etch his name into the history books at ASU and lift that #1 into the rafters.
Final Score: Oregon 79 ASU 66