Leading scorers out. A win now with the value of diamonds. Losing streaks pouring into Huntsman Center. Injuries and suspensions aplenty. Ladies and gentlemen, the game between Utah and ASU Men's basketball. With such reduced firepower on both sides, can the Sun Devils pull this one out of Salt Lake City after getting rolled by the men of Boulder? More after the jump, but first of all, a great link about Utah basketball strategy by ASU alum Tom Kuyper (just skip the parts about Josh Watkins because he's dismissed from the team).
Look, the common belief for Utah basketball this year was that they were going to struggle this year. At the same time, voters agreed that Stanford was not going anywhere and UCLA was going to be really good. Unlike the latter two events, the first assumption was indeed true. But coming in, I didn't think they were going to be THAT bad... until now. In short, their struggles made the difficult season in Wake Forest look a lot rosier.
Playing at a similar pace as the Sun Devils, the Utes are a disaster on almost every facet of that end of the floor. If there's 1 thing that they are OK at, it's turning the ball over 14 times a game, an average rate at the Pac 12. But saying that their best offensive asset is an AVERAGE turnover kinda shows what the Utes are in every other category. Despite getting most of their points from inside the arc, they shoot a woeful 39% from the floor and under 26% from 3. Don't worry about fouling them, either. They are shooting an anemic 51% from the line. Every other stat, like those relating to offensive rebounding, free throw rate etc. are in the near bottom or dead bottom of the Pac.
The Utes are also an eyesore on defense. Conference opponents on average have an offensive field day to the tune of 49% from the floor and 45% from 3. Opponents also routinely beat Utah on the offensive boards. Finally, and mercifully concluding the stat analysis for Utah, they don't block a lot of shots and force turnovers.
With Josh Watkins dismissed from the team, alot of the scoring will come down to two players that are more of the complimentary scorer variety: Chris Hines and Jason Washburn. After getting off to a slow start, Hines is averaging double digits in the Pac 12. He's a shooter who is reliant on plays to free himself for a shot rather than an off the dribble scorer. Washburn is a big guy with good touch in the post areas and is the Utes' intereior deterrent (1 bpg). He's also the leading rebounder.
Dijon Farr is a combo forward who also has a knack for rebounding while chipping in 7 points a game. Cedric Martin is the most accurate 3 point shooter for his team in the Pac, while also leading the team in steals and grabbing 4 boards a game. Kareem Storey replaces Watkins at point guard. He did have a good outing against Arizona, scoring 10 points and dishing 6 dimes with 5 turnovers; we'll see how he responds in his second tour of duty as a significant contributor. Then everyone else averages under 2 points a game in the conference season.
This is a game that ASU has a great chance of winning, but they need to start strong and take the wind out of Utah early and not allow the Utes to think they have a chance of pulling off the upset. If you read their SB Nation blog, Block U, the guy has mentioned that ASU is the last winnable game for them. Let's not sleepwalk into Huntsman, OK guys?