Can the Sun Devils salvage a win in the mountains?

Can the Sun Devils salvage a win in the mountains? article feature image

Arizona State @ Utah (+2.5)

In the last four seasons, Utah has lost just two games as the back end opponent when Pac 12 teams make the infamous mountain trip from Boulder to Salt Lake City. Those two losses came to an outstanding Arizona team three seasons ago, and last year’s Lonzo Ball led UCLA Bruins. In that span, only three teams have crossed the 1 point per possession threshold in 18 games played. The Sun Devils head to Boulder off an OT loss in Boulder with a short bench. It sets up as a terrible situational spot, but let’s also take a look at the matchup.

Offensively, ASU runs outstanding ball screen motion with three guards all capable of attacking in Shannon Evans, Remy Martin, and Tra Holder. With excellent spacing thanks to perimeter weapons, big man Romello White, one of the country’s most efficient posts, often takes advantage of the resulting single coverage. The Sun Devils are also lethal in transition, as all three of their aforementioned guards can initiate the break.

Defensively, Utah struggles to defend in pick and roll. The Sun Devils don’t possess great length in the backcourt, but still own a height advantage over Utah’s Justin Bibbins, who has trouble checking Pac 12 caliber guards in ball screens. Hurley will certainly attack Bibbins and Sedrick Barefield early and often. Additionally, Utah struggles in the post defensively. David Collette and Jayce Johnson have strong individual metrics as post defenders but have been forced by high-level bigs. Against the 5 best post players they’ve seen this year (Yoeli Child- BYU, Brandon McCoy- UNLV, Tyler Wideman- Butler, Drew Eubanks- Oregon State, Deandre Ayton- Arizona), the Utes allowed 93 points on 36-54 shooting from the field.

Offensively, Utah continues to improve as they get healthier. Donnie Tillman, one of the country’s most efficient post presences when healthy, has returned. Per Synergy, Tillman scores 1.38 points per post possession, and frontcourt mate Collette scores 1.14 points per post possession. They both should take advantage of ASU’s De’Quon Lake, who allows 1.16 points per post possession. While White grades out as an excellent post defender, Hurley prefers to keep him off the block to avoid potential foul trouble. However, the eligibility of Mickey Mitchell has helped Hurley tremendously, as his versatility at the 4 allows him to collapse down on entry passes to help on penetration. Mitchell is quickly proving to the be the linchpin of Hurley’s defense.

While Utah hasn’t been swept at home by travel partners since Cal and Stanford did it in 2013, the Sun Devils simply have too many offensive advantages for the Utes to contain.

Pick: Arizona State -2.5

Other Notes:

  • George Mason is a bad basketball team, but they have a few advantages against Davidson. First, GMU can match up with Bob McKillop’s scissor cut and ubiquitous weakside motion. GMU, who runs excessively small, has major issues getting caught in bad switches in PnR defense and with containing dribble penetration. However, McKillop never joined the ball screen and dribble drive revolution, which should benefit GMU today. Second, the GMU offense struggles against zones and pressure, and while McKillop will mix in some zone, he rarely extends pressure. GMU runs Otis Livingston and Justin Kier off a lot of ball screens, which will cause problems for a Davidson squad with only one perimeter defender in Jon Axel Gudmundsson.
  • Few teams in the country run more offense through the post than Missouri State, particularly with NBA talent Alize Johnson, which should worry an Illinois State team that grades out in just the third percentile in post defense, per Synergy. Offensively, the Redbirds predominantly run ball screens between Keyshawn Evans and Milik Yarbrough, but Missouri State’s pack-line principled defense excels at denying penetration off ball screens, and can also switch 1 through 4 defensively.
  • Both William & Mary and Drexel run a lot of ball screen motion offense, which neither can defend. Tony Shaver’s offense at William & Mary runs outstanding 4 out motion, especially with the versatile Nate Knight at the 5. The development of point forward Alihan Demir has helped the transition-heavy offense at Drexel. Demir, an outstanding big-to-big passer, will have a plus matchup at the 4 against Justin Pierce. Even on the back end of a Friday-Sunday pairing following Drexel’s big overtime win against C of C, the Dragons should score at will, as should the Tribe.

Sunday’s Top Picks

YTD: 232-220-4 

2H Plays: 10-5

Arizona State -2.5

Missouri State -5

George Mason +5

Niagara -3.5

C of C +2.5

William & Mary/Drexel over 157.5

Miami/FSU under 144.5

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