(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils will take on the Stanford Cardinal tonight in the quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1. The Cardinal advanced past Washington State Wednesday night in a 74-63 win.
Stanford’s entire starting five scored in double figures Wednesday. The Cardinal ended the game shooting 58.5 percent from the field, hitting a third of their three-pointers and sinking 87.5 percent from the charity stripe while also out rebounding the Cougars 28-24.
ASU comes into the tournament at the No. 3 seed, and the Cardinal at the No. 6 seed. Each team has won on their home court during the regular season. The Sun Devils won 76-64 over Stanford on Feb. 26 and fell in Palo Alto on Feb. 1 by a score of 76-70.
Despite the advantageous first round-bye granted to ASU, the Sun Devils have greatly struggled on the road this year. They lost their last two home games on the road to Oregon and Oregon State, both teams they were able to beat at home.
Jahii Carson scored 26 points in the Sun Devils’ win against Stanford. While Carson’s production is vital, this game will ultimately be determined by how well ASU can shoot collectively as a team and how soon they can get that going, just as the Cardinal did from the early minutes against Washington State on Wednesday.
Keys to Victory
Crashing the boards is the best chance for ASU to get points up early and often. When the Sun Devils fell to the Cardinal on the road in the regular season, it was primarily because ASU was outrebounded 40-32. If the Sun Devils can go up for those offensive rebounds, it will minimize the team’s habitual rushing of shots while keeping the ball out of the Cardinal’s hands.
2. Protect the Post:
Stanford senior forward Dwight Powell and redshirt junior center Stefan Nastic were too much of a presence in the post for Washington State, raking in 16 and 10 points respectively. The Sun Devils need to make Stanford work for their shots. If ASU gives them those easy points, there is no doubt that Stanford will take advantage of that throughout the entire game making it exceedingly difficult to match on the other end for Jordan Bachynski, who can sometimes struggle on the road and finishing under the rim.
3. Get the Momentum Early:
ASU needs to start off this game strong and control the rhythm. The Sun Devils forced 15 turnovers in their last win against the Cardinal. They need to not only muster that again, but also cash in on the points off turnovers, which will be a debilitating factor for the Stanford.
Matchup to Watch: Center Jordan Bachynski vs. Center Stefan Nastic
Both men have a huge role in controlling their team’s tempo with the ability to grab those rebounds and post-up. While Bachynski definitely has the height advantage, Nastic may be more versatile with his offense. Whoever wins in this quarterfinal will be a testament to how well these two centers executed in all assets of the game under the rim.
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