Florida Preview

The Arizona State Sun Devils (21-12) will take the floor at Wells Fargo Arena for the final time of the season as they take on the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators (23-11) in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night.

It has been a great season in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena as the Sun Devils have won a school record 15 home games and have won all ten of their contests at home against non-conference foes. However, none of those teams (sans Xavier) are quite up to Florida's status yet. However, the Gators are an extremely young squad that have surprised many by winning 23 games despite four of their starters from a year ago leaving school early for the NBA draft and a head coach that flirted with an NBA coaching gig during the off-season.

To get to the quarterfinals, the Sun Devils dismantled the Alabama State Hornets in the opening round and stifled the Southern Illinois Salukis in round two. The Gators have made quick work in both their games with dominating performances against San Diego State and Creighton. In the Creighton win, freshman PG Nick Calathes had a triple double for Florida.

Head Coach – Billy Donovan

Projected Starters

G – Nick Calathes – (15.1 PPG, 6.1 APG)
G – Jai Lucas – (8.8 PPG, 45% 3PT)
G – Walter Hodge – (10.3 PPG, 36% 3PT)
F – Dan Werner – (9.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG)
C – Marreese Speights – (14.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG)

Impact Reserves

F – Alex Tyus
F – Chandler Parsons
F – Adam Allen

Backcourt

In basketball, it's common that the smallest guy on the floor runs the point but with Florida, they start two players that hover around six feet tall in Jai Lucas and Walter Hodge but neither directs traffic in the offense. That is reserved for the 6'5 Nick Calathes, a phenomenal playmaker that gives defenses a world of problems with his size and quickness that most opposing guards are not used to.

The Sun Devils will start Derek Glasser at the point with Ty Abbott and James Harden on the wing. While the Gators will have an edge on quickness, ASU will do a good job of countering that with their frustrating zone. While the matchup that everyone will be watching will be Calathes and Harden, two of the country's finest freshmen, the real key factor will be Abbott. A very streaky shooter that either propels the offense or shuts it down, Abbott will need to find his rhythm and keep ASU rolling.

Slight Edge – ASU

Frontcourt

Marreese Speights and Dan Werner are talented and physical bangers that will give ASU some trouble. Speights is a fantastic post presence that has been one of the biggest surprises in the SEC this season. Werner is a physical player that will be a matchup problem if the Gators dictate the momentum.

For ASU, Jeff Pendergraph and Rihards Kuksiks will get the nod and Pendergraph is coming off a sensational defensive performance with a school record-tying eight blocks against Southern Illinois. As usual, the Sun Devils will play with a wing-player playing out of position down low and Kuksiks has improved his play incredibly over the course of the season. The Latvian freshman has gained more confidence in shooting the ball and more impressively, his post defense has been very strong.

Slight Edge – ASU

Bench

Neither of these teams are extremely deep but their bench play, however sparse, can prove to be a major difference maker. The Gators have next no zero depth in the backcourt but with Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus, they get quality production off their bench in the frontcourt.

Arizona State has Jamelle McMillan and Jerren Shipp helping out in the backcourt and Eric Boateng in the frontcourt. Shipp can play down low if need be as well. Boateng has been a solid contributor as of late and has allowed Pendergraph to get more minutes of rest.

Edge – Even

Final Score – ASU 67 Florida 63

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