Well, this is not the tournament ASU had in mind after their surging start to the season; however, after a 10 win season last year, the National Invitation Tournament is a decent consolation prize.
ASU rolls into their opening game Wednesday as the No.3 seed taking on the sixth seeded University of Detroit Titans.
Now by this point in the season fans know about the Sun Devils. You are going to get heavy production on the offensive end from point guard Jahii Carson. Forward Carrick Felix is going to bring the leadership whether or not this is an NIT game, and although center Jordan Bachynski has been both hot and cold, it is fairly safe to chalk him up for a solid performance against a far smaller team.
On the other end, this Titans team at first glance seems like a lowly mid-major school filling a spot in the second-tier NIT tournament. But looks can be deceiving; this Horizon League team is so much more.
For starters they have a big time college basketball player in guard Ray McCallum Jr., who is a mid-major player by choice. McCallum Jr. is a former McDonald’s High School All-American who had offers from just about every school in the country. However, when it came to school choosing time McCallum declined offers on the table from the University of Florida, Duke, and even U of A to stay at home at the University of Detroit largely because his father is the head coach.
McCallum Jr. is the current Horizon League player of the year, he has 16 20-plus point games to his name this season, and he has excellent size for a guard at 6’3” and 190 pounds. Along with that, the junior guard can spot up from behind the arch, on the elbow, and drive in the lane finishing strong with either hand.
That being said, whether it is Sun Devil guards Evan Gordon or Chris Colvin Wednesday night, some or all ASU players will have a force to attend to in McCallum.
Although McCallum is a tremendous talent, the Titans are far from a one trick pony. Senior guard Jason Calliste will be giving Jahii Carson a workout on the defensive end, as Calliste also tends to fill it up in the scoring department.
Calliste and McCallum are also complimented by high flying forward Doug Anderson and serviceable bench player Juwan Howard Jr. (son of Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard).
This Titans team is athletic and experienced, as they played in the NCAA tournament last season as a number 15 seed.
However, as all mid-major teams go there are a few flaws, and Detroit’s is their lack of size. They do not have a player taller than 6’9” in their starting lineup. Which means Bachynski should have a field day in the post.
Bachynski is the key to ASU getting out of the first round of the NIT, as well as containing the well rounded Ray McCallum Jr. on the offensive end.
Prediction: ASU loses an incredibly exciting and close game to U of D 75-68.