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Trophy Hunting at the Mohegan Sun

Arizona State Sun Devils

Virginia punched its way to the title game of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off this weekend with a hard fought win over UMass. Their reward is a Sunday matchup with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Bobby Hurley's club is coming off back to back NCAAT appearances and would love to put a feather in this year's resume with an upset of the champs. Will Virginia be up to the challenge?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Sunday, November 24th, 1:00 pm ET
Location:Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, CT
TV:ESPN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:
Torvik:Ranks ASU #48, predicts a 62-57 UVA win, 72% confidence
KenPom:Ranks ASU #68, predicts a 68-58 UVA win, 83% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#1 Remy Martin, 6'0" 170, JR
31.7 mpg, 19.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 42.9 3P%
SG#2 Rob Edwards, 6'5" 205, SR
25.0 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 0.3 apg, 50.0 3P%
SF#5 Elias Valtonen, 6'7" 195, SO
16.0 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 33.3 FG%
PF#4 Kimani Lawrence, 6'8" 220, JR
18.7 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 38.1 FG%
C#23 Romello White, 6'8" 235, JR
18.0 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 60.0 FG%
Key Reserves
G#10 Jaelen House, 6'2" 160, FR
23.0 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 2.7 apg, 28.6 3P%
F#35 Taeshon Cherry, 6'8" 210, SO
13.0 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 40.0 FG%
F#24 Jalen Graham, 6'9" 205, FR
21.7 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 71.4 FG%
G#11 Alonzo Verge Jr., 6'3" 167, JR
24.7 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 0.0 3P%

 

The ABC's of Arizona State:

A) They want to play fast. Going back to Bobby Hurley's tenure at Buffalo, he's favored an up-tempo attack. The Sun Devils are peaking this year with the nation's 13th fastest tempo, averaging over 73 possessions a game. What's new this year is the degree to which a ball-hawking turnover-generating defense is feeding into it. But even without turnovers, they'll look to run off rebounds as well. The Hoos of course sit at the opposite end of the spectrum and usually can control the pace, but this will be the first real test for this year's club to prove they're as good as past UVA squads and slowing down a running opponent.

B) They're a veteran club. A day after getting to exploit an overly-young UMass club, Virginia matches up with a pretty experienced Sun Devils. ASU returns six key players from last year's team, which includes senior wing Edwards, four juniors in Martin, Verge, Graham, and White, and sophomore Cherry. Other than JuCo transfer Verge (who may not play after skipping the St John's game with an undisclosed injury), they're all well versed in Hurley's styles, and provide good mentors for the two freshmen contributors House and Graham.

C) Their guards dominate their offense. While they've got a pretty decent cadre of forwards and bigs in Graham, Lawrence, White, and Cherry, the Sun Devils' identity really revolves around its guard. Especially if Verge is healthy, ASU will rotate an aggressive, capable foursome in their backcourt that can heat up the ball (9.3 steals per game combined), score, and distribute while not turning it over. Martin and Edwards can also shoot it (43% and 50% from 3, respectively) so there are no easy assignments for our guards in this one.

 

Their Season To Date

The Sun Devils are 3-1 on the season. After opening with a 10-point loss to Colorado in an international event in China, ASU has won its last three: easy wins over Central Connecticut and Rider, and Saturday's 80-67 win over St John's.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Ball Security. Hurley's got himself some incredible guards this year, and they've been terrorizing opposing backcourts so far this season. St John's committed 16 turnovers yesterday. Rider and Connecticut state committed over 20 apiece. They're going to be going hard after UVA's guards in this one, pressuring not just the ball handler but the off-ball movement as well. Just like against UMass, running clean offense will be a priority for UVA's guards. Hoos cannot let Arizona State generate easy transition opportunities off of steals.

2) Exploit the glass. Junior big man Romello White is basically the only plus rebounder in the ASU rotation, pulling down an OR/DR% of 10.9/29.5%. He's a vacuum on the boards, but the rest of the team is pretty vulnerable. As a team the Sun Devils are a mediocre 217th nationally on the offensive glass and 227th nationally defensively. This is one of the few areas where UVA has a clear advantage going in and the Hoos will have to exploit it.

3) Pop the bigs. ASU's guards do an incredibly job shutting down the perimeter for their opponents. In addition to the turnovers already discussed, they frustrate shooters into an abysmal 22.9% collective 3 point shooting percentage, and in most cases simply dissuade teams from taking threes in the first place (opponents take only 28% of their shots from 3, which is the 22nd lowest rate in the country). So by no means is this likely to be a game our guards dial in from deep. But the wild card is the trio of Huff, Diakite, and Key. ASU's bigs don't want to be out on the perimeter pressuring shooters, that's their guards' job. Virginia's bigs can be the secret weapon here.

 

 

Predictions:

ASU is going to be UVA's biggest test of the young season. They may be unranked, but they're a quality club with NCAAT experience and a bright young head coach. On 24 hour turnaround, hard to expect either coach to have much in the way of opponent research and gameplan put in, instead focusing mostly on running their own systems as best they can. For this one, I'm going to expect a battle, but I'm going to trust in Tony's usual ability to control the pace against high-tempo, high pressure foes. Not to say it might not be without hiccups, and I'd feel better if UVA's guards could hit some 3's to unlock a tight game. But this ultimately may be the kind of battle we saw against VCU the last couple years. Here's to the Hoos getting their seventh straight holiday tournament title.

Hoos Win 61-57