|G: Darren Collison, 6'0"
||G: Derek Glasser, 6'1"
|G: Jrue Holliday 6'3"
||G: Ty Abbott 6'3"
|G: Josh Shipp 6'5"
||G: James Harden 6'5"
|F: Alfred Aboya 6'9"
||F: Rihards Kuksiks, 6'6"
|F: Nikola Dragovic, 6'9"
||F: Jeff Pendergraph, 6'9"
These are, in all likelihood, the starting lineups for tonight's game in Tempe. We will now take a look at these matchups and how they will affect the outcome.
Since ASU plays a 2-3 zone (with minor variations that give fits to opponents, for the tactics seem to change based on game situations), the size advantage that UCLA currently boasts will be neutralized by multiple factors.
First, Pendergraph is a very active big man, and he roams the paint with veracity. Kuksiks does a good job of playing bigger than his height would indicate, and the zone collapses nicely to protect against easy buckets on the inside.
Secondly, Nikola Dragovic isn't known as an inside threat. His long-range shot is excellent, however, shooting just 40% on the season. For a 6'9" player, this range is dangerous and can cause havoc for any zone, but especially one with shorter bodies.
This game comes down to multiple defensive assignments that will occur when the Sun Devils have possession of the ball. James Harden is difficult to defend, and Josh Shipp will be tasked with shutting him down. He will be double-teamed at many points throughout this contest, and Derek Glasser will be asked to be very vigilant in finding the open man in these situations.
We cannot rely solely on Harden driving one-on-one against a UCLA opponent, even though that is what won the game for ASU in Los Angeles. Ty Abbott needs to play a productive, defensive-minded game and attempt to shut down the high-scoring Holliday. Can ASU's offense exploit the freshman's inexperience, tallying points in a meaningful fashion?
Kuksiks will be a big piece of the offensive output tonight, based on ASU's need for made baskets from 3. Jamelle McMillan, after his impressive showing in Corvallis on Saturday, might be able to provide some relief in that area, but his historical body of work is not nearly as strong as Rihards' is.
Here are the keys for tonight's game.
Break Down The Zone. Find open men on the outside. With 3 players averaging 40%, you need to be letting it fly, and Aboya will collect the missed shots.
Lock Down Harden. Make ASU beat you on offense with role players. If Dragovic can be instrumental in the victory, try to force Ty Abbott into a starring role. He's not comfortable with that.
Cause Foul Trouble For Pendergraph. This goes without saying. If Jeff Pendergraph is on the bench, Eric Boateng will not be able to stop Alfred Aboya. This will ensure victory.
It's Harden's Game. This is James Harden's statement game against the #6 team in the country. He will be fired up and ready to impress the selection committee.
Utilize The Healthy Bench: Don't overwork Derek Glasser or Rihards Kuksiks. These guys deserve breaks, especially Glasser who is coming off a scary collison. Jamelle McMillan and Jerren Shipp can come in and help out in this game. Shipp always has a little extra to give against his brother.
Turn 8 Minutes Into 40 Minutes: ASU wants every game to go like the last 8 minutes of the previous contest with UCLA, where they didn't give up a single point. Can the lessons learned in that game be applied to a full tilt?
Game tips off around 7:05, be there! Pack the house, I don't want any more jokes at our expense.