ASU assistant Musselman analyzes matchup with Arizona Wildcats

Jan 16, 2014, 7:00 PM | Updated: 7:00 pm
LISTEN: Eric Musselman, ASU Assistant Coach

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.”

Arizona Basketball

Azuolas Tubelis #10 of the Arizona Wildcats moves the ball up-court past head coach Tommy Lloyd dur...
Arizona Sports

Report: Arizona, Alabama hoops finalizing neutral site game in Phoenix

The Arizona Wildcats and Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball teams are finalizing a game at Footprint Center, reports Jon Rothstein.
2 days ago
Florida Atlantic players celebrate after defeating Kansas State in an Elite 8 college basketball ga...
Associated Press

Florida Atlantic punches ticket to Final Four with upset win over Kansas State

Florida Atlantic had never won an NCAA Tournament game prior to this season. Now in its second-ever tourney trip, FAU is Final Four bound.
4 days ago
TUCSON, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 22: Adama Bal #2 of the Arizona Wildcats handles the ball against Khalil...
Austin Scott

Adama Bal leaving Wildcats via transfer portal

Sophomore guard Adama Bal marks the second Arizona Wildcat to enter the transfer portal, after averaging 2.5 points per game off the bench.
6 days ago
Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa (25) reacts after Arizona State guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. hits a three ...
Arizona Sports

Kerr Kriisa entering transfer portal after 3rd year with Wildcats

Point guard Kerr Kriisa will enter the transfer portal after playing his third year with the Arizona Wildcats, he told ESPN.
7 days ago
Lauren Fields #23 of the Arizona Wildcats shoots as Abby Meyers #10 of the Maryland Terrapins defen...
Associated Press

Arizona WBB eliminated from NCAA Tournament with loss to No. 2 seed Maryland

Diamond Miller scored 24 points to help Maryland to a 77-64 victory over Arizona in the second around of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
10 days ago
Arizona Wildcats guard Lauren Fields (23) shoots over West Virginia Mountaineers forward Isis Beh (...
Arizona Sports

March Madness: Arizona WBB underdogs in 2nd-round matchup with Maryland

Arizona women's basketball is the final of four teams from the state alive in March Madness after defeating West Virginia 75-62 on Friday. 
11 days ago
ASU assistant Musselman analyzes matchup with Arizona Wildcats