6 PM PST -- Wells Fargo Arena
Kenpom.com prediction: ASU wins 56-46 (53 possesions, 91 percent confidence)
I'm going to be brutally honest. This is not a game the Cougs should expect to win, and one look at the Pomeroy projection ought to tell you why: We are going to struggle to score points.
I think ASU is going to be the hardest team in this conference for the Cougs to beat, mainly because I think the team has not demonstrated the kind of outside shooting you need to beat any effective zone. Could the Cougs suddenly get hot and hit a bunch of shots from outside? Sure -- we know Daven Harmeling is a better shooter than he's shown so far, and we suspect the same of Lodwick. But the bottom line is that those two just haven't done it this year, Klay Thompson and Taylor Rochestie have been inconsistent, and if Mike Harthun gets put in there ... well, who the heck knows what you'll get from him.
I'm guessing that's probably why Harmeling is starting. Tony Bennett knows he needs another outside threat, and my guess is that Bennett wants to see if he can get him going early. If Daven doesn't hit some shots right away, then you find him a spot on the bench. If he does, then maybe you can ride him for a while.
The downside to this is twofold, in my book. First, this is a return to that terrible senior lineup that has proven itself time and time again to be ineffective against a team that has any amount of athleticism. There's a real lack of defensive rebounding skill with that lineup, and it's a slow lineup.
Second, who the heck is going to guard James Harden? The only thing I can think of is that Tony's thinking along the same lines as C.W. from House of Sparky who said the best thing you can do is double Harden and get the ball out of his hands. There's no way Harmeling can guard Harden one-on-one, so maybe they're just going to send a second guy at him every time he touches the ball.
Honestly, I'm afraid that if we put a lineup on the floor that can score, it won't be able to defend, and if we put a lineup on the floor that can defend, it won't be able to score. If ever there was a game that was going to require every bit of Tony Bennett's creative genius as a coach, this is it, because the matchups just don't favor the Cougs.
Man, I hope we win -- but I don't like our chances.