As Arizona State enters the home stretch of Pac-12 play, center Jordan Bachysnki has emerged and is beginning to outshine Jahii Carson.
To be clear, the Sun Devils need stellar outings from both Bachynski and Carson to finally get back to the NCAA tournament. But if I was forced to choose which player deserves MVP honors, I side with Bachynski.
It all starts on the defensive side of the floor, where Bachynski can put up an argument with anyone in the nation. Bachynski holds the conference record with 282 blocks and counting. And that doesn't even factor in the countless attempts he has altered. Herb Sendek's decision to abandon the matchup zone in favor of man-to-man has allowed Bachynski to roam, clog and disrupt the paint area.
Meanwhile, Carson isn't causing anyone to fret because of his average defense. Oregon starting point guard, Joseph Young, nonchalantly posted 29 points against Carson. In addition, Carson's small frame at 5-feet-10 makes him susceptible to mismatches.
Ask the Seattle Seahawks, defense wins championships. The majority of the Sun Devils issues on defense come through transition, in part because Carson and Co. don't get back quickly enough. In half court sets, Carson, Jermaine Marshall, Shaquille McKissic and more can crowd the 3-point line and gamble on the perimeter, because of a 7-foot-2 swat machine lurking in the back. Arizona State ranks No. 4 in the Pac-12 at points surrendered with 67.1, and it's safe to assume Bachynski deserves the majority of the credit.
The common perception about Carson running the show on offense for Arizona State stands true, however Bachynski isn't far behind. Carson tallies 19.0 points per game and Bachynski notches 12.2. Those statistics are deceiving because Carson launches twice as many attempts.
If Bachynski received about 14.9 looks (Carson's average) he would be projected to score 24.4 points, 5.4 more than Carson. Bachynski converts 59.9 percent of the time, and because of the high rate, expect him to get increased chances with the rock down the stretch.
To start the Oregon and Oregon State contests, the team fed Bachynski on the block. Bachynski continues to gain confidence with his post moves, making quick decisions to attack the basket. Over the last two games, Bachynski accumulated 43 points and hit 15-of-20 shots.
On the other hand, Carson stayed in college to become a better shooter, yet his 44.0 percent clip is slightly lower than 2012-13. Carson tends to force the issue and sometimes takes questionable shots. The final minutes of each game define stars, and in those situations, all eyes are on Carson. In reality, Arizona State has relied heaviest on Marshall to come through in the clutch.
A lot of the points Carson puts up wouldn't be possible without Bachynski controlling the glass. For example, Bachynski snatches the rebound and immediately looks up court, dishing it to Carson, allowing the crafty point guard to get into open court, where he is unstoppable.
The best offense the Sun Devils deploy starts with Bachynski. The "live and die" mantra on 3-pointers usually applies to the maroon and gold. For Marshall, Jonathan Gilling, and Carson to get space, an ordinary entry pass to Bachynski solves the dilemma. Opponents struggle to combat the size of Bachynski, requiring double-team efforts, leaving someone open. The green-light approach from beyond the arc wouldn't work without great shooters and it wouldn't work without Bachynski keeping the defense honest.
Another reason to favor Bachynski over Carson is due to the dying breed of centers and the abundance of point guards. Skilled big mans are few and far between, and rare commodities always get the benefit of doubt (Gold collectors please back me up).
Fans don't need to decide whether Carson or Bachynski mean more to Arizona State, because they are currently packaged together, giving the 942 Crew a plethora of reasons to be optimistic.
However, if you had to pick Carson or Bachynski, who would you side with? There are no wrong answers. Please let us know in the comment section.