UCLA at Arizona State: What to Watch

Arizona State (15-4, 4-2)
Tipoff: 1 p.m., Wells Fargo Arena
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net/AM 570

At a glance: Might ASU present a bit of a trap with UCLA high off its Arizona win — its first road victory over a ranked team since 2008? Maybe, but the Sun Devils still feel like a team playing above its head. They’re certainly better than their preseason pick for 11th in the conference, but I’m not certain that they’re a top-five team.

– Most concerning is Arizona State’s lack of depth, something hurt even more by the suspension of sixth man Chris Colvin (19.6 mpg). Point guard Jahii Carson is one of the best freshmen in the country, but he also leads the Pac-12 with 36.4 minutes per game. Three other players average over 30 minutes per game.

In an overtime win against USC on Thursday, four Sun Devils topped 40 minutes, leading coach Herb Sendek to scale back Friday’s practice. Worth noting: the Trojans, who average 66.1 points per game, scored 93 in Tempe. They topped 80 in regulation for the first time since a season opener against Coppin State.

– ASU is one of three Pac-12 teams who rank below UCLA in rebounding margin, so it’s hard to imagine the Bruins having more trouble in Tempe than Tucson. (Arizona leads the conference in that statistic.) ASU is also particularly bad at cleaning up the offensive glass, an area UCLA has struggled to defend for most of the season. Ken Pomeroy ranks the Sun Devils at 303rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. The next lowest Pac-12 team is Utah, which sits 50 spots higher.

Players to watch: Ben Howland compared ASU point guard Jahii Carson to former Washington star Isaiah Thomas (now playing for the Sacramento Kings). Here’s a straight stat comparison Carson and Thomas’ junior year — his last in college.

Carson, ’12-’13: 36.4 mpg, 45.6 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 71.3 FT%, 17.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.3 apg
Thomas, ’10-’11: 31.9 mpg, 44.5 FG%, 34.9 3P%, 71.9 FT%, 16.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.1 apg

With 122 free throws taken this year, Carson needs just 12 more to set the mark for most attempts by any ASU player since James Harden.

“He’s an outstanding playmaker,” Howland said. “He is a big-time athlete. Very quick. Fast, scores it, a great penetrator. As quick as anybody we’ve seen all year or will see all year.”

Other Sun Devils to watch are 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski, fourth in the country with 4.2 blocks per game, and junior guard Evan Gordon — whose brother Eric plays for the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans. The younger Gordon has played out of his mind lately, averaging 19.7 points since totaling three points in his first three Pac-12 games.

For the Bruins, all eyes are on freshman center Tony Parker, who could get close to 20 minutes of playing time as forward Travis Wear sits out with a concussion. Parker has eclipsed 10 minutes in only four games this season, twice hitting a high of 18 (James Madison and Prairie View A&M).

ARIZONA ST STARTING LINEUP
C – Jordan Bachynski, 7-2, 250, Jr., 29.9 points, 6.9 reb, 4.2 blocks
F – Jonathan Gilling, 6-7, 215, So., 9.6 points, 7.1 reb, 2.7 ast
F – Carrick Felix, 6-6, 197, Sr., 14.6 points, 8.1 reb, 1.9 ast
G – Evan Gordon, 6-1, 187, Jr., 11.1 points, 3.0 reb, 2.3 ast
G – Jahii Carson, 5-10, 175, Fr., 17.5 points, 3.3 reb, 5.3 ast

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