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ASU – Stanford preview

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Tonight, the Stanford Cardinal are heading into Tempe to take on the surging Arizona State Sun Devils, who have won four of their last five games.

Stanford (14-9, 5-5 Pac-12) is looking to climb back into contention in the Pac-12, after last weekend’s sweep of the Oregon schools, including the 10th-ranked Ducks. ASU (18-5, 7-3 Pac-12), on the other hand, is looking to extend its recent run in conference play.

As a team, the Sun Devils sport a balanced attack, with guards Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon (29.4 combined points per game) controlling the backcourt and the combo of Carrick Felix, Jonathan Gilling, and Jordan Bachynski (21.9 combined rebounds per game, 5.6 combined blocks per game) commanding respect down low on the boards.

However, the Cardinal have a couple of big-time rebounders in Josh Huestis (9.3 rebounds per game, fifth-best in Pac-12) and Dwight Powell (7.8 rebounds per game) despite their size disadvantage, as no players on the roster are over seven feet tall.

The game is a must-win for both teams, as the Cardinal still have a shot for a postseason appearance with an average non-conference schedule and, aside from their Pac-12 opener against USC, have not had any crushing losses in conference play. Arizona State, on the other hand, is still trying to make up for a cupcake out-of-conference schedule.

Keys To Victory

1. Protect the ball

Both teams will be looking to force turnovers on defense, but each team is in the top five of the conference in turnovers per game at 12.6 for ASU and 12.3 for Stanford. The Devils will try to continue their breakaway attack that features the speedy Carson and Felix.

2. Take Your Free Points

All season long, ASU has been plagued by terrible free throw shooting. The team currently ranks last in the Pac-12 at 62.5 percent. Stanford, on the other hand, is third with a mark of nearly 74 percent. If this game comes down to the wire, as games for the Sun Devils usually do, it’s going to be tough for them to put the Cardinal out from the line.

3. Force Bad Shots

This is also a match-up between the conference’s most effective team from the field (Arizona State, 46.5 percent) and the least effective, as the Cardinal sport a Pac-12-low 41 percent. Both teams will be trying to defensively force bad shots, but it will be especially important for Stanford to limit the Sun Devils, who will have the home crowd to their advantage to fuel their offensive power and efficiency.

Match-up To Watch

Jordan Bachynski vs Chasson Randle

Randle’s 14 points per game will make him a force to be reckoned with offensively, and it will be up to Bachynski to expose his 38.8 field goal percentage and ineffectiveness on the boards with only three rebounds per game. Bachynski’s nationally-acclaimed 4 blocks per game will also come into play down low. The biggest question, though, is whether this is an on-game for the blocking machine or an off-game. Since his 22-point, 15-point takeover of Arizona State’s domination over UCLA, he has been nowhere to be found, averaging only 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in that three-game span.

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