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ASU Basketball: Q&A with Creighton blog 'White & Blue Review'

The Sun Devils and Bluejays are set to do battle tonight in the CenturyLink Center for ASU's first true road game of the season.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils hit the road and travel to the midwest to face the Creighton Bluejays tonight. Following a 1-1 showing the Legends Classic and a victory over UC Santa Barbara, the Sun Devils look to add to their tournament résumé this week as they play the Bluejays and then host Texas A&M on Saturday night.


Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2) @ Creighton Bluejays (5-1)

Tipoff: 9 p.m. ET/7 p.m. MT

Television: CBS Sports Network

Radio: ESPN Phoenix 620

Friend of the program and White & Blue Review contributor Patrick Marshall was gracious enough to answer some of our questions heading into the showdown between the Bluejays and Sun Devils. His answers are below, and you can view our responses to their questions here.

House of Sparky: All but one of Arizona State's games have been decided by nine or less points, while Creighton has yet to play a close game. If this one is tight down the stretch, do you trust the Bluejays to pull out a win?

Patrick Marshall: That is a very good question. I think Creighton has yet to identify a go-to player because they haven't needed to for the most part. The scoring has been pretty balanced too as they have nine players that are averaging between 6.5 and 13 points per game.

The game against Rutgers was a lot closer than the final score indicated. The Bluejays were actually down at halftime by three. However, they went on a 20-8 run to start the second half and then were able to maintain the lead through the rest of the game to escape with a win.

In that one it was the clutch shooting of Cole Huff that propelled Creighton to victory and a team effort to make the comeback. I do have concerns who will be the player to step up in a close game, but I know several who will want to do it --Maurice Watson, Isaiah Zierden, James Milliken, and Huff. We may find out who that is tonight.

HoS: Greg McDermott's team was exposed a bit at Indiana a couple of weeks ago, but bounced back nicely by handling Rutgers and Massachusetts. I know it is early, but what results are more indicative of just how good this team is? Maybe somewhere in the middle?

PM: With so many new faces on the court for the first time this season and the hype the fans have been surrounding this team with, I think the Indiana game was a good reality check on how far this team still needs to go. They have learned a lot about themselves since that game. They worked on finding more of an identity against Rutgers, but look to be headed down the right track after the stellar games against UMass and Western Illinois.

There are a lot of new faces coming into this season, granted some with a good amount of experience, but a whole new look to this team. Huff (Nevada) and Watson (Boston U) were coming off transfer seasons. Zierden was rebounding from his second consecutive short season because of knee injuries. Milliken and Toby Hegner, who were starters last season, are now coming off the bench, and Khyri Thomas is starting as a true freshman.

Geoffrey Groselle has surprised many with his play so far this season, while Zach Hanson has some confidence issues to overcome. Three others that are rotation players this season are new to the program. All of these factors have created the challenge on how they would be able to gel as a team, but the potential is there.

HoS: This ASU team plays much better when they can get up and down in transition and keep the tempo up. Is that how Creighton likes to play, or will McDermott try and slow this game down?

PM: Creighton is a very up-tempo team and it could turn into a track meet. It all starts with Watson. He is under 6-foot, but his speed and ability to make plays outweigh his height.

Transition is the name of the game for the Bluejays. They aren't afraid to put up a shot early in the shot clock and being able to get out on the break after a rebound helps the flow of their game. If both teams are playing this up-beat tempo, it could get a little crazy, but it will get the fan base a little more excited.

HoS: From what I've seen, the CenturyLink Center can be one of the toughest places in the country to play when Creighton is performing well. Just how loud and crazy are the fans going to be for this one?

PM: In CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) Center history, there have been very few power conference teams coming to Omaha to play Creighton. Now that the Bluejays are in the Big East, the opportunity for power conference teams to come to town is increasing, but it is still a special thing for one of those teams to play here.

It has taken a while to get things loud in the CenturyLink compared to the old Civic Auditorium years ago, but it has become a lot better. For power teams, the crowd is always pumped up. With it being a Wednesday, the crowd may not be as big, but they will be vocal. Add in a later start time (8:00 p.m. local) and that just gives more time for people to have a few drinks which, of course, may cause a little more rowdiness. Since McDermott has come through, the crowds continue to get better.

I would expect a loud building with about 18,000 people cheering the Jays on.

HoS: Which Jay player, or players, should fans of the maroon and gold be watching out for the most?

PM: As mentioned above, Watson is the leader of this team. He spent last season sitting out as a transfer and watching Creighton's struggles last season has made him more motivated to be a leader and it shows on and off the court.

He is a vocal leader and is not afraid to do anything he can to draw defenders and help his teammates get shots. Watson will lead the team in assists, but as he has made his transition he may be prone to turnovers and foul trouble. That should clean itself up as the season goes on and he adjusts to the different level of competition.

Groselle, a 7-foot center, has been amazing to start the season. He graduated last year mid-season and is getting through the MBA program now. Since his graduation, it seems he has been able to focus more on basketball. He had a strong Big East conference season last year and has picked up right where he left off.

The last two games against UMass and Rutgers have been amazing, showing moves that most have not seen in his four seasons at Creighton. He averaged almost 19 points and nine rebounds in those two, schooling inexperienced low post players.

The other guy to watch out for is Milliken. He became Creighton's leading scorer the second half of last season and was looked upon to make plays down the stretch. This year he is coming off the bench, but is averaging more minutes than a couple of the starters. He is fifth on the team in scoring, but given the opportunity he could light it up if the focus is on the other four players that score in double figures.

With the balance the Bluejays have right now, there are several other guys that could be the ones to watch, but these three will be the ones I see ASU focusing on.

HoS: Prediction for tonight's game?

PM: I think it will be pretty competitive with both teams still trying to find their complete identity. If both teams are going to keep the tempo up, then it will be a fun one that should come down to the final possessions.

At that point it will be the team that can slow things down the most to get those end of game scores. Creighton has the home court advantage and I expect Bobby Hurley to have some growing pains in his first year at Arizona State. The Bluejays will walk away with an 87-75 win.