Arizona State assistant coach Eric Musselmen says the Sun Devils know they have quite an opportunity ahead of them.
After all, how many chances do you get to beat the number one ranked team in their own building?
Of course, that opportunity exists only because the Arizona Wildcats (17-0, 4-0) are one of the best teams in the country, and that poses an incredible challenge for the Devils (13-4, 2-2).
“You’re going up against arguably the best team in the country and the most talented team,” the coach told Doug and Wolf Thursday morning. “Sean Miller’s done a fabulous job with his team. The recruits that they’ve had come in there. They rebound the ball like an NBA team.”
Of the Wildcats’ many strengths, their best are tied to their frontline of Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski. Coming in at 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 and 7 feet, respectively, they do not lack for size or athleticism.
The trio are keys to why the Wildcats have outrebounded every opponent they’ve faced this season to the tune of a +10.7 boards per-game margin, as well as why they are holding opponents to a paltry .371 shooting percentage.
Musselman said Arizona’s ability to control the boards is going to be his team’s biggest concern or hurdle entering the game, but added that the Wildcats’ biggest strength could be the way the roster is constructed.
“They have a great point guard, he’s like a CEO of a business,” he said of T.J. McConnell. “He controls their whole team…he’s got a high basketball IQ.”
Musselman said along with McConnell, the rest of the roster is “a well put together team where their pieces fit perfect like a puzzle,” adding that they don’t lack for scoring options, either.
But if the team has a weakness, the coach noted, it could be in the Wildcats’ shooting, specifically from the small forward spot where Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tend to play.
Both players are freshmen, and each is great around the basket. However, neither has shown the ability to consistently make shots from the outside.
“Doesn’t mean that they can’t, but that’s probably the one area,” he said. “But that’s also a strength of them on the glass because of their size and length and it helps them defensively.”
So even their weakness, at least according to Musselman, isn’t really that hampering. Goes to show there’s a reason the Wildcats are undefeated and ranked number one.
“We’ve talked to just about every team that’s played them, too,” he said, noting that Drexel hung with UA earlier in the season and had some thoughts on the team. “It’s hard to go undefeated during the course of a season and to start a season off as hot as they have. Having said that, we have to come into the game with confidence and believing that we can win the basketball game.
“We have some weapons that I’m sure they’re concerned about as well.”