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NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

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What to Watch For: Previewing WSU @ Arizona State

The Cougs look to build some momentum in the desert.

Your Washington State Cougars are coming off of a rousing win against USC at home, but they are headed on what might be the toughest road trip in the conference: the Arizona schools.

Today, Wazzu takes on Arizona State, a tough team to get a read on, as they have beat Colorado, Stanford, Michigan, and Creighton -as well as holding a tough Arizona to a nine point lead- but they also lost by 37 to San Francisco recently. They are volatile, but incredibly talented.

The game tips off from Tempe at 5 PM PST and can be watched on the Pac-12 Network.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Offense:

Arizona State is the 9th best offense in the Pac-12, but 12th when only counting conference games. They rank 123rd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, with their biggest issue being their scoring efficiency. They rank 304th in three-point percentage- 30.5%, and 208th in two-point percentage- 49.1%. They do most other things well though. They rank 86th in turnover rate, 117th in offensive rebound rate, and an impressive 63rd in free throw rate. They are not a great offense, but if they have a hot shooting game, they can be hard to stop.

Arizona State loves to get their two best guards going in pick-and-roll, but they rarely simply space away, and run straight middle ball-screens. Here, they set-up the middle ball-screen with a down screen, and then they run the set as a north screen, where the roller is replaced by someone popping up to the wing.

Here, they set-up an empty side ball-screen with a pistol action. There is a guard-guard pass, a cut, and then a pick-and-roll ran towards the middle of the floor.

ASU also likes to run an action that WSU fans should be familiar with: chest. Here, the big catches at the top of the key, there are two away screens, and the big is tasked with making the decision.

ASU loves to utilize off-ball screens to create shots from deep. Whether it be pindowns, elevator screens, or stagger screens, they will run a lot of plays to either get shots from deep or create a cut to the rim.

This is a good example of their off-ball screen creating an open cut. This is a chest set with a well-timed slip that leads to an emphatic slam. ASU might be the most athletic team in the conference, and it shows up as they crunch dunks like this constantly.

Finally, the Sun Devils are going to push in transition whenever possible. They know how athletic they are and their guards are slippery going to the rim. They will run off turnovers, off of defensive rebounds, and even off of makes if the opportunity presents itself.

Defense:

Arizona State has a great defense, and that’s the reason they’ve beat more talented teams. They are athletic, long, and pesky all over the floor, which has led them to rank 23rd in Kenpom’s Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Their greatest strengths are how they contest shots and protect the rim- ranking 3rd in opponent two-point percentage, and 51st in opponent three-point percentage. They aren’t always trying to run teams off the line- 219th in opponent three-point attempt rate, but they tend to be good at recognizing where excellent shooters are and making it hard for them to get easy looks. They also rank 120th in opponent turnover rate as a result of said athleticism. Their biggest issues come on the glass, 256th in defensive rebound rate, and with fouling- 253rd in opponent free throw rate. They are a great all-around defense, but there are some holes that can be exploited.

A major part of what makes ASU so effective at protecting the rim is that they will drop their bigs aggressively. They are more than comfortable with guards taking contested pull-up twos, but they don’t want to allow easy penetration.

The Sun Devils are incredibly athletic, which allows them to cover the lane and closeout to shooters without having to sacrifice much. They are constantly all over the floor, scrambling well and making everything tough for opposing offenses.

ASU will occasionally double good post-players, even if it means giving up good looks to shooters. If Mouhamed Gueye gets going down low, he could face some doubles in this game.

Arizona State’s biggest issue is their fouling, and it shows up constantly on tape. They’re overly aggressive on guarding drives and contesting shots, which leads to a lot of free throws for their opponents.

Players to Watch

Frankie Collins is a sophomore guard who transferred from Michigan. He is lightning quick, getting to the rim with ease and finishing or making plays for others. He is averaging 11.4 points and 5.5 assists a game. While he can be a bit erratic, he can also explode for some big performances.

Devan Cambridge is a transfer from Auburn who might be the most interesting NBA prospect on the Sun Devils’ roster. The 6’6 wing is an excellent athlete and defender who hits shots efficiently- albeit on low volume. He is an incredibly fun player to watch and his athleticism makes him a threat on both ends.

Desmond Cambridge Jr is Devan’s older brother and one of the most exciting athletes in the conference. The 6th-year senior started his career at Brown before going to Nevada, eventually ending up at ASU. The 6’4 wing who excels as both a shooter and a finisher near the rim. He might be the best dunker in the conference and he can be electric as a scorer.

Washington State Cougars

Players to Watch

Andrej Jakimovski will be playing in only his fifth game of the season, but his impact has already been felt. The shot isn’t all the way back yet, but he went 2-4 from deep against USC and he seemed to get some rhythm back. His defense, passing, and rebounding have been big additions to WSU’s rotations and he will be valuable guarding some of Arizona State’s wing scorers.

DJ Rodman has been on a pretty insane tear over the start of the Pac-12 play. Over the last two games, Rodman has scored 35 total points on 10-17 from the field and 5-9 from deep. His defensive impact is already impressive, with him being one of the best charge takers in the country, which has boosted WSU’s overall rim defense immensely. The scoring doesn’t seem super sustainable, but his drive game has been solid and his shooting leveling out would be a huge boost for this offense.

Jabe Mullins, when healthy, might just be the best shooter in the country. After a slow start over his first three games of the season, he is shooting 27-50 (54%) and he is up to 49.2% on the season. All that while dealing with nagging injuries. He is an all-time heater, and he’s comfortably stepping into his role as this team’s 6th-man. He is not far from getting legitimate professional looks if the jumper stays at this level.

What to Watch For:

Slowing ASU down and packing the paint are the two major defensive keys in this game. Arizona State is not a great shooting team, but they are excellent at getting to the rim and finishing. WSU will need to plug off of non-shooters and have plenty of protection around the rim. Mouhamed Gueye has improved there, but he can’t be the lone guy protecting the rim, it will need to be a team effort.

Generating threes is going to take bit more effort against ASU than it did against the LA schools, because the Sun Devils are better at running shooters off the line. They are not elite at it, but they tend to see a shooter, and force them to take tougher shots. WSU’s offense has looked much better in recent games and it’s mostly because the sets are generating great shots from deep. If our offense can stay at that level and continue generating those looks, then ASU will struggle to keep up.

Question of the Game:

Will WSU hit more than 10 threes?

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