Arizona State comes into the game with a tremendous amount of confidence due in large part to a conference high 5 game win streak. The Sun Devils have a chance to start the Pac-10 schedule 2-0 for the first time in the Rob Evans era. The team has the added bonus of being able to play relaxed, knowing that all the pressure is on Oregon following their conference opening home loss to Arizona, a game which broke a record-tying MacArthur Court 23 game win streak.
The Oregon Ducks enjoy a frenetic, open court game that often evokes memories of the run and gun offenses of a bygone era. Through the non-conference schedule the Ducks led the NCAA in point per game average, putting up over 89 points per contest. They take considerably more three-point shots than any other team in the conference and do so seemingly with no regard for time or situation. 6'2 junior Luke Ridnour is the puppet master of the offense and is a player than is widely considered among the best point guards in the nation. Ridnour is extremely skillful with the basketball in his hand, almost as though it were an extension of his body. He has a deadly hesitation dribble that he uses to blow by defenders and get to the hoop and he's often apt to simply pull up from anywhere on the court for a jumper and he leads the team in scoring at almost 19 points a game. But Ridnour also possesses great court vision and awareness, leading the Pac-10 in assists at over six per contest.
Many of those brilliant passes that turn into buckets end up in the hands of fellow bushy-haired junior Luke Jackson. Ridnour's style of play fits Jackson's game perfectly, as the versatile 6'7 wing is equally adept in transition or working to get his own shot. Jackson is a close second in terms of scoring output for the Ducks, averaging nearly 18 points a night. He's a 43% shooter from three-point territory and also is second on the team both in assists and rebounds. ASU's containment of Jackson could very well be the most important factor of the game. Donnell Knight will draw the defensive assignment, and his defensive performance could be the key to this basketball game. Jackson is hard to find in transition and Knight will be forced to spend his time on the floor playing impeccable position defense both on and away from the basketball.
The other wing position will be largely filled by 5'10 junior James Davis, the leading three-point shooter in the conference. Davis is a long range specialist with 77 of his 97 attempts coming from three-point distance. When Davis is out of the game the Ducks go with JC transfer Andre Joseph, but he's simply another deep bomber. The Ducks very often rotate these players until one gets hot and then stick with him for the bulk of the game. Davis averaged only a few more minutes per contest than Joseph.
The starting frontcourt players are 6'9 wide body Brian Helquist and 6'9 Robert Johnson. These are workmanlike interior players that know their role and stay in close proximity of the basket and painted area. Neither has a problem playing physical defense and Johnson in particular is an excellent rebounder. It is extremely important to keep these guys away from second chance opportunities on the offensive glass, as that is how they score the bulk of their points, with few plays being run specifically for them. The first frontcourt player off the bench is Australia import Ian Crosswhite, a redshirt freshman who plays very much in the mold of the traditional tall overseas player. He's very mobile and active offensively with the desire to step out and face the basket despite his nice 6'11 frame. He can shoot it very well out to the three-point line and is 9 for 19 on the season from that distance. Crosswhite can also post up and he is a very impressive 54% from the field on the year. Like most young overseas bigs, Crosswhite is only an average rebounder and defender. When the Ducks want legitimate interior defense off the bench they go to either 6'9 Jay Anderson or 7' Matt Short. Both are capable players and contribute to what is arguably the deepest frontcourt bench in the conference.
For the Sun Devils to win they must take excellent care of the basketball, as the Ducks are tremendous in the points off turnover category. They also must take smart shots that leave them in position to play good transition defense and hustling back is imperative every single trip down the floor. Getting into a run and gun game would be unwise, as the Ducks squad is most comfortable pushing the game into high scoring figures and are one of the best teams in the country and putting up big runs. You'll often see them score 12 or 15 or even 20 unanswered points. If the Devils can protect the basketball, do a decent job of containing Luke Jackson's versatility, work the half-court offense for high-percentage shots, and prevent a big double digit run, they should have a legitimate chance at winning the Basketball game.
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