Who Are You: Arizona State

Kevin Danna brings his insights and observations heading into Thursday evening's home contest versus the Arizona State Sun Devils at Maples Pavilion.

At long last, the two-week road trip is over. The 0 for 3 showing in the Emerald State and East Bay left Stanford in a tie for fifth.

Luckily for the Cardinal, they are back at home this weekend. And luckily for the Cardinal, the weekend starts against the much-maligned Arizona State Sun Devils.

The big storylines for the Sun Devils this year all center around who is NOT available to suit up for Herb Sendek. It started with Jahii Carson, the top-50 recruit out of nearby Mesa, who was ruled academically ineligible for the season in December and was unable to play in a single game this year.

He was expected to be the main option at point guard, but his ineligibility meant Keala King would be forced to play the "1." Despite his nearly four turnovers per game, the guard formerly recruited by Stanford was having a breakout year, averaging more than 13 points per game while also averaging almost five boards per contest to go along with three dimes each time out.

And then he got suspended for the LA trip in early January for unacceptable conduct. And then that suspension became a permanent boot from Herb Sendek to the backside of the sophomore straight outta Compton. With this most recent departure, King becomes the eighth player to leave Tempe since 2009, a list that includes the subject of the best basketball book of all time, Demetrius Walker, who played his heart out in New Mexico (where he has become a valuable reserve for Steve Alford)The eighth player to skip town left Herb Sendek with eight available scholarship players; who said "8" was a lucky number, after all?.

So that paved the way for dependable veteran guard Trent Lockett to take over the point. The junior perimeter player was having himself quite the season, leading the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game to go along with a team-leading 6.4 rebounds per outing…and then he went down with a sprained ankle. Lockett has missed the last four games and is doubtful for Thursday's clash with the Cardinal, according to the Arizona Republic's Doug Haller.

Thus, Chris Colvin is now handling the point duties. Thankfully for the Forks, Colvin is still healthy. In the four games since he took over for Lockett, Colvin is averaging 11.5 points and five assists per game… but also 4.5 turnovers.

Not surprisingly with all the flux at point guard, that last statistic has been a huge problem for the Sun Devils all season long. Arizona State is dead-last in the Pac-12 for turnovers per game (16.3) and turnover margin (-5.1). They give it up a lot and often don't get it back in return. In fact, Arizona State forced more turnovers than they committed for the first team all season in their 71-67 victory over Washington State this past Saturday. Hard to imagine that in a schedule that has featured the likes Montana State, Pepperdine, Northern Arizona and Utah that their 21st game of the season would be the first time they won the turnover battle. As long as Stanford gets after it defensively on the perimeter, the steals are going to be there for the taking for the likes of Jarrett Mann, Chasson Randle, and Aaron Bright. This should be one area in which the Cardinal have a huge advantage on Thursday night.

Stanford has had trouble keeping opposing guards in check, and the Cardinal could very well have their hands full again with junior wing Carrick Felix. He has made huge strides from his first season in Tempe (he is a transfer from the College of Southern Idaho), when he was averaging fewer than five points per game and shooting it at a 21 percent clip from beyond the arc. Now? Those numbers are up to 11 and 36, respectively. He is also very strong for his size around the hoop and can finish in traffic. After the job he did on Allen Crabbe, I would expect to see a lot of Josh Huestis on this young man.

Or that potential killer perimeter could be Jonathan Gilling, who is making a serious push to be on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team. He is one guy the Cardinal can ill-afford to leave open in the corners, as he had huge threes from those spots in both the Washington and Washington State games, contests in which he scored 20 and 10, respectively, while also passing for seven assists against the Cougs.

Down low, the Cardinal will concern themselves with a couple of 7-footers, though probably not at the same time. Moscow, Russia native Ruslan Pateev is one such giant. He's slow but can shoot it effectively out to 18 feet and leads the team in blocks at Jack Bauer's favorite number for the season. I'm a bigger fan of Jordan Bachynski, a 7'2'' center who has a lot of hustle. He had a career-high 13 rebounds in a close loss to Washington last Thursday to go along with nine points. He is developing some post moves and was able to finish nicely on multiple occasions against both the Huskies and Cougars this past weekend. His main bugaboo is the charity stripe, where he is only accurate 40 percent of the time.

The two trees rarely play at the same time, but showed off what they can do in tandem briefly against Washington, working a nice high-low between the two that led to an easy Pateev layup. Regardless, I find it hard to believe that either of these guys will be able to keep up with Josh Owens on the block. If Owens can go for 14 points on 7-13 against another 7-footer in Aziz N'Diaye, there's no reason to believe he can't potentially do the same against these two. For Josh, it will all be a matter of posting hard and getting the ball where he likes it, and if the double comes, passing out quickly and getting ready to re-post or crashing the glass for an offensive rebound.

The road to recovery starts Thursday night against a team that is 7-14 overall and 3-6 in conference play. The three-game road losing skid was disappointing, but gave no reason to be overly concerned. A loss against the Sun Devils, and it might be time to hit the panic button, because this one is certainly within the grasp of the Farm Boys.
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