The keys for the Sun Devils to knock off the Longhorns
Texas is not a pretty team. Texas is not a finesse team. Texas is not a fast team.
Texas finished 11-7 in the Big 12. Unlike most conferences nowadays, that's a legitimate conference record. Very few conferences play a home-and-home with every team. Iowa State is the darlings of the Big 12 and the NCAA Tournament committee gave them a 3 seed. Texas finished tied with ISU -- playing the exact same conference schedule -- and received the seven seed.
This is a bad matchup for ASU. Texas is a less athletic version of Arizona. The Longhorns are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. ASU rarely rebounds well. Arizona State can win this game but they must do some things that have become unnatural.
THE BIG 3
Jordan Bachynski, Jermaine Marshall and Jahii Carson have done very little this month. If that continues, the season is over Thursday night. There appear to be a massive amount of distractions as the season is coming to an end. If either of these three are thinking about what will happen in their lives after a loss, that time in their lives will start after the final buzzer.
It's too easy to say, "make shots," but that's what this is about. Texas will kill ASU on the boards. Offensive rebounds will be non-existent for the Sun Devils. The obvious way to minimize an opponent's advantage is by making shots, thereby eliminating rebound opportunities.
Making shots is too simplistic of an explanation. The key to making shots is getting open looks. The key to get open looks is ball movement. ASU must move the ball and get Texas chasing. Not only does that create open looks, it also is harder to rebound when you have to worry about covering for your guards or giving up inside position to deny the basketball in the post. If ASU comes with their sorry, dribble for 25 seconds, one screen offense, they will go up in flames.
He must be special. I didn't say really good. Carson must be special. He hasn't for awhile.
Under no circumstances should the pace be slowed. ASU is more athletic. They must run, even if they have the lead. Usually, when a Sendek-coached team has the lead with four minutes left, things slow to a crawl. Against Texas, that will bring the Longhorns back from the dead.
Dunk the basketball.
He must rebound and make threes. Gilling usually gives you one or the other and sometimes neither. If Gilling combines for four threes and eight boards, Devils win.
Pack it in. Do not fear Texas' ability to shoot the three. Pack it in and keep Isaiah Taylor out of the paint. Never buy a jump shot head fake from anywhere beyond 17 feet. Texas can't shoot so why try to block the shot? Box out and get the rebound.
There's a very good chance ASU might shock Texas and bring back the Herb Sendek matchup zone. The reasons: 1) Texas can't shoot to pull ASU out of the zone; 2) the match-up principles allow ASU to still rebound well enough; 3) Sendek has had four days of practice to teach it.
I'm not saying that ASU will run it and never come out of it. That would be death because ASU hasn't practiced it at game speed. I do see the moth balls coming off that defense for a few possessions, however.
Texas has lost five of their last eight. That's why they fell to a 7 seed after a great start to the season and a nice seven-game winning streak during the conference season.
Texas is beatable for ASU but the Devils must change to win. For better or for worse, the needed changes are mostly mental.
Doug Franz, Co-host of Doug & Wolf