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Men's Basketball Preview: Arizona State Sundevils

After taking a beating at the hands of the Wildcats Thursday, the Huskies will be looking to regroup and pick up a split in the Desert when they take on the Arizona State Sundevils on Saturday.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was ugly. After competing well for a half against the Arizona Widlcats, Sean Miller's squad came out and buried the young Huskies in the second half, cruising to a 99-67 victory and sending the Huskies to their first conference loss of the season.

The Huskies are going to need to pick themselves up off the ground quickly and regroup as they have another tough test Saturday, as they  travel to Tempe to take on the Arizona State Sundevils. While Thursday's outcome was certainly disappointing, taking down the Sundevils Saturday would be a big win and salvage the road trip. But it will not be easy, as first year head coach Boby Hurley has the Sundevils playing well. Let's learn a little more about the (other) team in the desert.

But first, here's how to watch the game.

Pac-12 Network, 4 PM (PST):

The Sundevils at a glance: RPI: 40 BPI: 52

The Sundevils were one of the surprise teams of the conference heading into league play after posting a 10-3 non-conference record. They have wins over NC State , UNLV and Texas A&M- who at the time was ranked eighteenth in the country, and they also played Kentucky to a competitive game, before the Wildcats pulled away a bit late in the second half. However, excitement around the Sundevils faded a bit nationally as they dropped their first three conference games to start the season, falling to instate rival Arizona at home, and then to UCLA and USC on the road. Still, the Sundevils seem to be much farther ahead than where many thought they would be at this point under first year head coach Bobby Hurley, as an NCAA tournament bid isn't out of the question.

Three Sundevils to watch:

The Sundevils are led by second year guard Tra Holder. The 6'1" guard is off to a nice season this year, averaging 16.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is knocking down his attempts from the field at a 45% percent clip, and is also shooting a respectable (although average) 38% from downtown. Holder does the majority of his damage out of the pick and roll, scoring  44.4% of the time. He is going to most likely to look to shoot a pull up jump shot off of the pick and roll, as he goes to the pull up 56% of the time after receiving a ball screen. He shoots an adjusted field goal percentage of 60% on pull up jump shots, and scores at a clip of 1.224 points per possession, making him a rather lethal mid range player. Though he prefers to shoot the pull up, he is also capable of both shooting a runner and getting to the rim, as he shoots an adjusted field goal percentage of 45% on runners, and 52% at the rim.

Just under half of Holder's offense comes from pick and rolls, so this will be his bread and butter throughout the game. If he is not using a pick and roll, look for Holder to try to score in transition. However, he isn't nearly the offensive force in transition that he is in the pick and roll, shooting an adjusted field goal percentage of just 42.7%, good for an "average" ranking by synergy sports.  The Huskies will most likely employ their switching defense on pick and rolls against Holder, so it will be imperative that the bigs do a good job of using their length to contest Holder's shots and take him out of a rhythm.

Another player to keep an eye on this afternoon is guard Gerry Blakes. While Blakes is second in scoring for the Sundevils this season at 10.7 points per game,he hasn't been particularly efficient. He is shooting just 37% from the field, and a putrid 26% from the three point line. Blakes' struggles this season probably stem from the fact that, aside from pick and rolls, he is listed as either "below average" or "poor" in every offensive category, according to Synergy sports. Blakes is a threat to score out of the pick and roll, and like Holder, it is where the majority of his attempts on offense come from. Blakes is a very good mid range pull up shooter, as he knocks down an adjusted field goal percentage of 52.9% of his pull up jump shots. He will look to drive to the basket off of pick and rolls, as he has finished a pick and roll with an attempt at the rim 42% of the time this year (he has shot a pull up off of 45% of his pick and roll attempts) but he isn't particularly good at finishing at the rim. He is shooting an adjusted field goal percentage of just 50% this season, and draws fouls on only eight percent of his drives to the rim. It will be imperative for the Huskies front court to wall up and force Blakes to finish over them. They cannot bail him out by fouling him at the rim, mainly because he isn't a particularly good finisher, but also  because he isn't very good at drawing fouls.

The last player to round out this list is  forward Willie Atwood. The senior from Memphis has put together a solid final season this year, averaging 10.5 points per game on 45% shooting from the field and 37.5% from three, and is also pulling down 5.6 rebounds per game.  Atwood does the majority of his damage as a spot up shooter, as he shoots an adjusted field goal percentage of 55.7% on spot up jump shots. Atwood will also look to get to the offensive glass, and while he isn't a particularly great rebounder, he does finish well on second chance opportunities when gets the offensive rebound. He has scored on 83.3% percent of his offensive rebound attempts this season, so it will be crucial for the Huskies to keep Atwood off of the offensive glass.

Other players to keep an eye on:

Savon Goodman, junior, forward. 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds per game.  53% from the field.

Obinna Oleka, junior, forward, 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds per game. 42% from the field.

Kodi Justice, sophomore, guard. 7.9 points, 1.9 assists per game. 41% from the field, 40.5% from three.

Eric Jacobsen, senior, forward. 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds per game. 53% from the field.


This is a rather tough game to predict, mainly because the health of Andrew Andrews is unknown right now. He sprained his ankle against Arizona in the first half Thursday, and while he did return to the game, he was held out of practice on Friday. Head coach Lorenzo Romar did say that he would play against the Sundevils today, but it will be hard to know just how healthy he is until he takes the floor. Still, I think this is a good match up for the Huskies. Eric Jacobsen is the only player on their roster that is over 6'10", so the Huskies should match up well with the Sundevlis in the paint. The biggest question for me-aside from Andrews' health- is how will the Huskies respond from Thursday's blowout loss? The Huskies have responded well to adversity so far this season, and I expect that trend to continue Saturday. Washington: 88 Arizona State:79