WSU vs. Arizona State basketball: Preview, TV schedule and game thread

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State tries to salvage the Arizona road trip after an embarrassing performance on Thursday.

The Washington State Cougars attempt to shake off a historically bad performance against Arizona when they face the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. PT, ESPNU). ASU is coming off a disappointing loss of its own, falling to Washington to open the Pac-12 schedule in a game that was never close.

The Last Game

Prior to that UW loss, ASU was off to a good start in 2013-14. Led by sophomore point guard Jahii Carson, the Sun Devils knocked off UNLV and Marquette in the non-conference, with losses to Creighton and Miami the only blemishes before this week.

ASU is in position to grab an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if it can put together a good showing in conference play, but the start wasn't promising. The Sun Devils will be hungry to bounce back, and likely see the wounded (literally) Cougars as a great opportunity.

If WSU is without DaVonte Lacy and Dexter Kernich-Drew again, avoiding a weekend sweep in Tempe will be a difficult task (it still would be if those two played).

UPDATE: Both will be in the lineup, according to ESPN's Roxy Bernstein:

Arizona State's strengths

It's all about shooting for Herb Sendek's squad -- on both ends of the floor. The Sun Devils rank 21st nationally in effective field goal percentage, hitting on nearly 39 percent of theirs 2s and 53 percent of their 3s. ASU isn't limiting its chances to get shots up, either -- the Sun Devils are turning the ball over just under 15 percent of the time, also 21st-best nationally.

Arizona State is getting those open shots by working quickly -- its average offensive possession length is 15.8 seconds, good for 32nd-shortest nationally. Pair that with a WSU defense that has played reasonably short possessions of its own -- 17.1 seconds (92nd) -- and expect some quick shots when the Sun Devils have the ball on Sunday.

It will be a different story when Washington State has the ball. The Cougars are among the slowest offenses in the country, averaging 19.8 seconds per possession (332nd). The Sun Devils and Sendek's matchup zone also force slow possessions, averaging 19 seconds.

And that slow pace has led to some bad shooting for opponents -- Arizona State has allowed just a 43.1 effective field goal percentage (12th). Most concerning for WSU? The 28.5 percent Sun Devil opposition has shot on 3s. The Cougars have slowed their barrage of 3-pointers recently, but still have taken more than four 3PA for every 10 FGA overall.

WSU will score more than 25 points, but they may have to look for other ways to score than just hoisting long-range shots, especially if Lacy is still out.

Arizona State's weaknesses

For the most part, Arizona State's statistical weaknesses appear to be more about style than personnel. The Sun Devils don't attack the offensive glass -- no surprise since they are hustling back to set up the zone defense. ASU also doesn't force many turnovers and steals, which in the context of their excellent shooting defense, can likely be attributed to valuing staying in front of a man over jumping a passing lane.

Another style weakness is along the same lines -- free throw attempts. Sendek's teams have rarely been about attacking the basket and drawing fouls. This year, Arizona State is 252nd in free throw attempts per field goal attempts.

How does ASU's lack of aggressiveness impact WSU's game? The Cougars lock down the defensive glass well already, so don't expect to see many second-chance points for Arizona State.

As for turnovers, WSU is middle of the road in giving the ball up. Limited turnovers won't suddenly be a boon to the Cougar offense, because there isn't a heck of a lot of room to improve.

KenPom's prediction

ASU 72, WSU 62 with 85 percent confidence.

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