The first meeting was met with hype and both players were able to reach expectations, as Lyons went for 24 points and Carson had 22. What Carson has been able to do in road games is simply remarkable and there is no hiding the fact that Lyons has struggled as of late. If Lyons is going to get back on track, this would be a good game to do it considering how well he performed in the first game and the stage that this one will be played on. However, Carson is just the more consistent and better player right now. Yes, Lyons has the potential to match him, but we can't honestly look at the last few games and feel confident that is going to happen.
Advantage: Arizona State
SG: Nick Johnson (6-3, 200, So.) vs. Evan Gordon (6-1, 187, Jr.)
Gordon has been in a real slump as of late, as shown by the fact that he did not score against the Los Angeles schools and only played 21 minutes against USC. Gordon is capable of hitting some shots and is a decent 35 percent shooter from behind the arc. However, Johnson should be able to slow him down considerably if Arizona chooses to go that route. It is possible that Arizona puts Kevin Parrom on Gordon and puts Johnson on Gilling because Arizona State's offense works through Gilling. Johnson guarded Gilling the majority of the first meeting and it completely disrupted what the Sun Devils were able to do. Either way, Johnson is at the very least equal with Gordon and the reality is that when he is playing well, he is a much better player. We have a feeling Johnson is going to put forth a good game here, as he did in the first meeting.
SF: Solomon Hill (6-7, 220, Sr.) vs. Carrick Felix (6-6, 197, Sr.)
Both Felix and Hill have been inconsistent as of late. Felix scored 8 against Colorado, 23 against Washington State, 8 against Washington, 16 against UCLA, and 4 against USC. Arizona State really does not know what it is going to get out of him, except that he is almost always going to play hard and be strong on defense. In the first meeting, Brandon Ashley played the best defensive game of his life and it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff trusts him enough to see if he can do it again. If not, Hill will get the task of containing Felix and dealing with his own inconsistency as well. Felix has had a very good season, but it would be surprising if Hill was outplayed in his final game at McKale. This one is likely to be pretty even, but we will give Hill the advantage due to that extra motivation.
PF: Kevin Parrom (6-6, 220, Sr.) vs. Jonathan Gilling (6-7, 219, So.)
Parrom's defense has not been good as of late, but this is the perfect matchup for him. Gilling literally never takes it to the basket and in the first meeting, Arizona had ASU perfectly scouted, as Gilling went for six points and fouled out. Parrom's job will be to completely take him out of the offense by shutting down what he does with screens and taking away the perimeter game. As long as Parrom fights through screens, he should be just fine here. On offense, Parrom should be able to get past Gilling and get to the line. Like Hill, Parrom is also going to be playing with that extra motivation and as long as he defends, this could be one of the bigger mismatches of the day.
C: Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, 255, Fr.) vs. Jordan Bachynski (7-2, 250, Jr.)
As good as Bachynski is, he tends to struggle with bigger players. It is not a coincidence that he had major trouble in the first meeting and did not play well against Washington either. Bachynski will likely be able to block shots, but the key here is to limit his opportunities around the basket and on the offensive glass. Tarczewski should be able to match Bachynski's numbers, but we are going to give Bachynski the advantage here because of his defensive ability. However, we want to note that we feel there is a good chance this matchup will be equal. We just don't see one completely outplaying the other.
Advantage: Arizona State
Bench: Eric Jacobsen started against USC, but was ineffective in his 15 minutes of action. The real key here is Chris Colvin, who was suspended for the first meeting. In his last game, Colvin played 34 minutes and scored ten points on good shooting. However, in the four games before that, he failed to score three times. This is the last game of the season and we can't see Herb Sendek wanting to go into his bench too much. On the other hand, Arizona has Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Jordin Mayes, and more if it wants it. This is a huge advantage for Arizona.
Coaching: Sean Miller vs. Herb Sendek
Miller had the perfect defensive game plan against Arizona State and completely out-coached Sendek in the first meeting. He was able to put Ashley on Felix to shut him down and Johnson guarded Gilling, which took him out of the offense as well. The result was 17 turnovers and a poor offensive night for the Sun Devils. Arizona is likely going to try to do the same thing and it will be up to Sendek to find a way around it.
Prediction: It feels as if Arizona is going to go as far as Mark Lyons takes it, but this one is much more than that. This is Hill and Parrom's last game at McKale and both players know the significance of that. ASU does not match up with Arizona very well because the Wildcats have the ability to guard the Sun Devils at every position and present a deeper bench. Arizona's defense is going to be the key here, as you simply do not know when it is going to decide to show up. If the defense comes out and is there right away, this game is not going to be close. If Arizona struggles to fight through screens and leaves shooters open, it will be another nail-biter. The guess here is that Arizona uses its depth to wear down Arizona State and pull away at the end.
Arizona 72, Arizona State 61