How do you stop a pre-season All American forward on a top 15 NCAA basketball team? Nobody in the nation can answer that yet, but Arizona State hopes to solve the puzzle on Saturday night.
Sun Devils men's basketball is off to a hot 4-0 start to the season, but they put their undefeated streak on the line against No. 14 Creighton Bluejays in the Las Vegas Invitational finals.
The Jays were blessed with such a high ranking in the AP poll predominantly because of Doug McDermott. The junior forward is averaging 19.4 points per game and 7.6 boards. As of Thanksgiving, he is already on pace for a career high six trips to the charity stripe each game.
ASU needs to take notes from UAB, considering the Blazers held the pre-season All-American to just six shots and five points on November 14. He had a season high three personal fouls against UAB, two of which came less then seven minutes into the game.
After registering his second foul of the game, it took McDermott 20 minutes to score his next basket. What does that mean Sun Devil fans? It means ASU needs to find a way to get the Jays' forward in foul trouble early.
Solving that task will take a group effort. Evan Gordan, Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix need to work hard off the ball and force turnovers outside the arc. Jonathan Gilling will need to step up defensively and try to get McDermott caught out of position. Gilling and the rest of the bigs are able to take some risks because 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski sports an impressive 6.5 swats per game.
Another thing to watch is turnovers and transition basketball. McDermott has a team-high 13 turnovers this season and swingman Felix has double digit steals after the first four games of the season. The maroon and gold have 37 team takeaways this season. The Sun Devils did a fantastic job of dictating the tempo against Arkansas and their speed could give the Jays some trouble in Las Vegas.
Friday night against the Wisconsin Badgers, McDermott took 23 shots and registered 30 points in Creighton's 84-74 victory. Though he typically plays around 27 minutes a night, he makes his time on the court count considering he shoots 52 percent and has made 28 of his 30 free throws this season.
The Jays have made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and they advanced to the round of 32 last season only to lose to the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels.
Creighton is easily the biggest test thus far for coach Herb Sendek and his Sun Devils will have their hands full in the Thanksgiving weekend tournament finals.