Pac-12 Basketball: Washington Huskies vs. Arizona State Sun Devils, Preview and Prediction
Tonight’s game is a rematch between PAC-12 Conference opponents, and features two of the most prolific scorers on the west coast. The first time they met, the Washington Huskies earned the victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils through a significant advantage on the boards. Their prior matchup was one of the most exciting games of the PAC-12 slate, as the teams combined to score 188 points in regulation. Since their first meeting on February 2nd, both teams have struggled mightily. Washington’s victory against ASU was one of the lone bright spots over the last month, as the Huskies have dropped eight of their last 10, including five straight road games. After going 17-4 over the first 21 games of the season, the Sun Devils have lost three of their last six. Check out the breakdown of each team, and the major themes that will decide this game:
Washington Huskies (14-13, 6-8 PAC-12)
After starting out 4-0 in PAC-12 conference play, the Huskies have been one of the worst teams in the conference over the past month. Coming into tonight’s rematch with Arizona State, Washington has lost eight of its last 10 games, and is currently 9th in the PAC-12 standings. The poor play of Washington’s star, CJ Wilcox, has been the main catalyst for the Huskies recent struggles. Known as one of the premier shooters in the country, Wilcox has shot just 26.9 percent from behind the arc over his last nine games. Offensively, the Huskies have been mediocre at best this season. They are statistically the worst three-point shooting team in the conference, and are 2nd in turnovers per game. However, Washington makes up for its lack of skill with an ability to dominate on the boards. Washington is currently the 2nd best rebounding team in the conference, and is 1st in offensive rebounds per game. The Huskies are one of the worst defensive teams in the PAC-12, and they are one of three teams in the conference that have an average scoring margin that is negative. Overall, the Huskies are on a five-game road losing streak, and will be looking to turn their season around by pulling the upset.
Star Player: SG CJ Wilcox
SG - #23 CJ Wilcox - 6'5'' 195 - Junior
Stat Line: 35 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 43.6 FG%, 37.1 3PT%, 4.6 RPG, 2 APG, 1 SPG, 1.1 BPG
CJ Wilcox is the most talented three-point shooter in the PAC 12. After knocking down 73 total threes last season, he is currently on track to convert on 77 attempts as a junior, which would be a career-high. The most impressive aspect of Wilcox’s game is that as his usage rate has constantly increased, so has his efficiency. Over the course of his career, Wilcox’s FG percentage and two-point percentage have increased every season. He has also progressed as an all-around player, and is currently averaging career-highs in rebounding, assists and blocks.
Recently, the biggest weakness in Wilcox’s game has been his consistency from behind the arc. He shot 48 of 116 from long-range over Washington’s first 18 games. In the last nine games, he has connected on just 14 of his 52 three-point attempts and is currently undergoing one of the worst shooting slumps of his career.
Strengths: Prolific Scorer, Knock Down Shooter
Weakness: Significant Shooting Slump
Arizona State Sun Devils (20-7, 9-5 PAC-12)
The acceleration and athleticism of redshirt freshman Jahii Carson make the Sun Devils one of the most exciting teams on the west coast. The diminutive point guard has been the biggest surprise in the PAC-12 this season and has put ASU in contention for an NCAA tournament bid. On offense, everything flows through Carson, who is 3rd in the PAC 12 in assists and 4th in the conference in scoring. The Sun Devils rely primarily on the three-point shot, and are 3rd in the PAC-12 in three-pointers made. On the defensive end, the Sun Devils are the best shot-blocking team in the conference and reject 9.1 percent of their opponents’ shots. Center Jordan Bachynski anchors the post, and has developed into one of the best shot-blockers in the country. While the Sun Devils have lost three of their last six games overall, they have won four of their last five home games. In tonight’s game, Arizona State will be looking to avenge its prior loss to the Huskies and continue its winning ways at Wells Fargo Arena.
Star Player: PG Jahii Carson
PG- #1 Jahii Carson - 5’10’’ 175 - Freshman
Stat Line: 36.6 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 46.7 FG%, 31 3PT%, 4.9 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 3.4 TOPG
Carson is the most athletic point guard in the entire PAC 12 conference. At just 5’10”, the diminutive point guard has an explosive vertical, and has made a living by getting to the rim. Carson possesses an excellent handle and his ability to stop and start on a dime makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.
As the primary ball handler for the Sun Devils, Carson has really struggled with his ball security. He is currently leading the PAC 12 in turnovers per game with an average of 3.4. In ASU’s 27 games this season, Carson has turned the ball over three or more times in 19 games. As a scorer, Carson’s biggest weakness is his inclination to settle for shots from the perimeter. Carson has taken 84 shots from three-point range, and has converted only 26 of his attempts.
Strengths: Athleticism, Distributing
Weakness: Ball Security, Streaky Jumper
3 Keys To The Game: #1 - Can Washington Stop Carson?
The major factor in tonight’s game will be Washington’s ability to limit the production and scoring ability of Carson. In the first meeting with the Huskies, Carson dropped 32 points on 13 of 19 shooting from the field, which led all scorers. The Feb. 2 matchup was the catalyst for Carson’s hot streak during the past three weeks. Over the last six games of the season, he has averaged 18.3 points, and has shot 53.2 percent from the floor. The Huskies need to put more pressure on Carson, and constantly double him on the perimeter. If they limit his ability to turn the corner, it will turn Carson into a distributor and force ASU’s auxiliary scorers to step up.
3 Keys To The Game: #2 - Will The Huskies Continue To Dominate The Boards?
The most impressive statistic from the teams’ prior matchup was the rebounding discrepancy. Washington absolutely dominated the glass and outrebounded ASU 33 to 17. In fact, Arizona State had only one offensive rebound the entire game. The Sun Devils need forward Carrick Felix to show up tonight. Felix, ASU’s leading rebounder and 2nd leading scorer, managed just one rebound in the Sun Devils prior meeting with the Huskies. Recently, he has been playing the best basketball of his career. After recording double-doubles in nine of the first 23 games of the season, Felix has had three double-doubles in his last four games. If Arizona State is going to win tonight’s conference matchup, it will need to Felix and Bachynski to make their presence felt on the boards.
3 Keys To The Game: #3 - Can Wilcox Break Out of His Slump?
Wilcox’s prolonged shooting slump has been a major reason for the poor play of the Huskies over the last several weeks. After making a living from behind the perimeter throughout his Washington career, Wilcox has been abysmal from long range over the last seven games of the season. A career 39.2 percent shooter from three-point range, Wilcox has gone eight for 38 over the seven game span. During the past month, Wilcox’s play has proved vital to the overall success of Washington. In the last 12 games, the Huskies are 3-0 when Wilcox shoots 50 percent or higher from the field. Conversely, when he has shot below 50 percent in the last 12 games, Washington has gone just 1-8. The Huskies need to get Wilcox going early and often if they are going to pull out a win tonight.
With the prolonged slump of Wilcox, I expect Carson and Felix to put up big numbers tonight while leading ASU to the win. Washington might have a distinct advantage on the boards, but the Huskies have really struggled in every other facet of the game. Personally, I think that the last meeting between the two teams was an anomaly. Arizona State is the more talented team, and it will show tonight.
Arizona State 70 - Washington 62