UCLA's main competition for freshman of the year, ASU's Point Guard Jahii Carson - Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Bruins face a solid but not deep ASU team that they should be able to handle
Arizona State's Website is one of the more fun ones to view when you are looking for random notes for an upcoming game. Their preview of the UCLA game is entitled "MEN'S HOOPS GAME NOTES: Didn't We Just Finish A Game? Sun Devils Host Hot UCLA Saturday At 2 p.m." It goes on to call us "super hot." Before Bruins fan are too critical, at the time of my writing this, UCLA's website did not have any preview up and still has a picture of Tyler Lamb on the landing page. Sigh.
But on the first part of the ASU header, ASU just played their third highest scoring game of Coach Herb Sendak's tenure, a 98-93 OT thriller against USC. (A brief note on USC, they are a completely different team since they fired Kevin O'Neill and are no longer interested in defense.) UCLA fans will rightly be worried about their short bench now that Travis Wear is officially out:
"Travis won't play tomorrow," Howland said Friday. "The normal protocol for someone who has been determined to have a concussion is there are certain amount of steps so he will not be available."
Wear was averaging a team-best 17.3 points on 61.7 percent shooting in the four games before Thursday. Against Arizona, he was 3 for 3 from the field in 11 minutes. Twin brother David and little-used freshman Tony Parker will get increased playing time, Howland said.David Wear had 15 points and eight rebounds Thursday and Parker had six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes -- his most action since Dec. 15.
UCLA was already playing with a short bench. The Bruins have been using an eight-man rotation, including a scant 2.6 minutes per game for Parker.
But here is the catch, ASU's bench might be shorter. Four guys played over 40 minutes against USC Thursday night. Really their "bench" is a backup center Ruslan Pateev. Tony Parker has played more minutes than their backup guard! So UCLA will not have the excuse of being tired because:
- ASU starters played more minutes the game before; and
- ASU's bench is shorter than the Bruins, even with Travis Wear hurt.
But despite not having a bench ASU is not bad team. They are now tied with Arizona for third in the conference having only lost to Arizona and Oregon.
Let's start with the fact that ASU has the only freshman not starting for UCLA that is a lock for the all-freshman team and a possible PAC 12 freshman of the year, Jahii Carson. Carson sat out last year because he could not meet ASU's lofty academic standards. (ASU took a number of JC recruits in football and those recruits may be the only JC players going to harder academic school.) But the red-shirt freshman has been impressive. He leads ASU in minutes, points, free throw percentage (although only 71%), free throws attempted and made, field goals attempted and made, and assists. Carson is shooting 46% from the field and it is a worry how much he will be able to tear up UCLA's improving defense.
Evan Gordon is the starting shooting guard and the hot hand, "Evan Gordon is averaging 19.7 points and 39.7 minutes in the past three games and is 21-of-38 (.553) from the field in that time." Gordon shot 10 of his shots from three against USC (where he shoots most of his shots at 36% clip) but also went 6-6 from two. Evan is NBA player Eric's brother and I am not making this up: his career objective is to be a CPA. Maybe to help his brother count his NBA millions? Evan is only 6'1" and UCLA should have an advantage here.
The wing is Carrick Felix. Felix is 6'6" and has had some tough games against UCLA. He has shot just 3-20 against UCLA for his career. However that is not necessarily an indication of who Felix is now. He has some good games against a ranked Creighton team (17 points) and has scored in double digits in every game in the PAC 12 except against Arizona. He has some big games on the boards as well going for double digits against Utah, Colorado and USC which ASU needs from him. He is comfortable outside. Felix is solid but, for whatever reason, has had trouble with UCLA.
Sophomore Jonathan Gilling is the opposite of Felix. He had the breakout game for his career against UCLA last year and is averaging 17 points a game against UCLA, including shooting 8-15 from three in those two games. Gilling is technically bigger than Felix but really is a wing who has taken 79% of his shots for his career from three. Basically if UCLA helps off Gilling as they have done in the past, he will make them pay.
ASU has two true bigs as mentioned above that alternated at Center against USC, the starter played 22 minutes and the backup played 23 in the OT win. But generally the smaller of the two, the seven foot Pateev, plays less. He is only an inside player and really just a big body. 7'2" Jordan Bachynski can score if left alone but is a very impressive shot blocker leading the conference with 4.2 a game. He had 9 alone against Colorado. This would have been a nice game for Travis Wear to extend him outside. ASU will have to hope that he can stop UCLA from going to the basket.
ASU has a very good point guard and is coming off their highest scoring game in years. Hopefully they will try to run with UCLA but I doubt it. Carson will cause UCLA trouble on defense and Bachynski on offense but really ASU makes UCLA look deep.