March 4, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils mascot Sparky celebrates with a cheerleader after defeating the Arizona Wildcats 87-80 at Wells Fargo. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
Will Arizona State be able to pull of it's second straight improbable victory to keep their season alive? We preview their chances against Stanford by breaking down what needs to go right.
If you're reading this, then you survived the massive amount of celebratory rioting that occurred in Tempe following Arizona State's astonishing 87-80 upset over the cross-state rival Wildcats this past Sunday. Congratulations. But now brace yourself for the jarring fall back to reality.
Of all the squads that the Sun Devils (10-20) could have been slatted against in the first round, they drew the Stanford Cardinal (20-10), the team that handed them their most severe defeat in a loss-ridden season (68-44 back on February 2). But if Sunday's win proved anything to Head Coach Herb Sendek, it's that nothing is guaranteed in this game this constantly fluctuating sport.
"In college basketball, there can be dramatic change from one media timeout to the next, let alone one month to another," Sendek said.
And for that exact reason, don't assume for a second that Sendek plans on letting his roster get caught up in one memorable win.
"To some extent, you have to be ready to move on, just like you do when you have a loss," Sendek said. "When tip-off comes its zero to zero."
If one thing is for certain though, it's that the score wont remain zero to zero as long as Cardinal guard Chasson Randle has anything to say about it. While ASU fans who are unfamiliar with the freshman may be overlooking his moderate production of 14 points in their first meeting, they'd be wise to recheck the box score and remember that they all came in reduced minutes due to it being blowout.
Much closer to reality, the combo guard has been averaging 17.4 over the past five contests including an astounding 3.4 threes a game. To put that into perspective, the deadly accurate Arizona Wildcat Brendon Lavender who shoots 52.5% from behind the arc (third best in the nation) and tore up the Devils on 6-8 shooting from downtown Sunday only averages less than half that many threes per game (1.6).
It's numbers like that that have Stanford outscoring their opposition at a clip of 7.7 points per game (second best in the conference). The Devils do have one ace in the hole in Trent Lockett as Randle has never played against the feisty defender since Lockett was injured for their the first match up. But while the-do-it-all guard's presence should provide a huge boost for ASU this time around, the Devils can't allow Lockett's rebounding numbers to equal a third of the team's total production for the second straight game if they're to have any chance at winning.
If there's one thing the Cardinal consistently owns, it's the glass; Stanford out-rebounds their opposition by a Pac-12 best six boards a game. This statistic is especially surprising considering their roster is lacking a single player who logs over six rebounds a game. Instead, they swarm to the ball as a collective unit, with 13 players averaging at least one board a contest. With all that in mind, it's probably safe to say there's no way the Devils advance to the next round if Jordan Bachynski and Kyle Cain can't combine for more than the five total rebounds they had against Arizona.
Consequently that's what is most concerning for this game. It is very likely that the fans in attendance at Wells Fargo Arena this past Sunday witnessed the highest level of basketball this roster can play. And while that performance was highly sufficient, in all reality, it is seeming like the Devils will have to dig deeper to compensate for the handful of blunders by Arizona that Stanford almost assuredly wont make.
Then again, this team has already taught us once not to underestimate a collection of men playing with nothing to lose, who's to say it won't happen again. Certainly not Bachysnki.
"I feel like these last couple of games are really showing everybody a little bit of what we're capable of and what we've learned all season," Bachynski said. "...we know that if we're peaking at the right time and playing the way we can, nothing is out of the question."