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2013 Pac-12 Tournament: #9 ASU v. #1 UCLA Preview

Tomorrow at noon UCLA plays ASU in the PAC 12 Tourament

Harry How

#1 seed UCLA should easily defeat #9 seed ASU and there is no excuse for a loss but there are two reason for UCLA fans to worry.

Reason 1. Jahii Carson

Jahii Carson is very good and was great in ASU's overtime win over Stanford in the first round of the PAC 12 tournament. He set a career high of 34 points on 14-22 shooting of all types. Carson showed why he was first team all PAC 12 and co-Freshman of the year. He is something special and a tough match up for UCLA or any other team as he is the quickest player in the PAC 12.

But here is where UCLA gets lucky. Carson played 44 minutes and may be tired. And after Carson. . . well let's quote an ardent ASU fan, Carson's Mom. As she tweeted after ASU played UCLA at Pauley:

@Kyle_Odegard Jahii doesn't have many deficiencies, his team does.

@DougHaller Gilling can't think the game. He's a shooter and that's it. A liability on defense and pitiful decision maker dribbling the ball

WOW!!! Mental lapses @ wrong time. Can't make dumb mistakes in OT games

@EricPMusselman @jahii_carson1 @c_felix0 too bad they just don't have a consistent 3rd wheel

Although these tweets and retweets were about the UCLA game, they could apply to many games this season for ASU including their game against Stanford in the first round of the PAC 12 Tourney. Carrick Felix is a good player who had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Stanford and has destroyed Shabazz on the boards this season (29 to 9 in two games). But after that, well as said above, Gilling can shoot but does not play smart. Against Stanford he fouled a three point shooter at the end of the game that let Stanford tie the game with a four point play and force overtime. Hard to get dumber than that.

The rest of the team aspires to be role players and are not necessarily there yet. This is a bad team with a great player, a very good player and the rest are best left unsaid sometimes.

Reason 2: The Coaching Matchup

The second scariest person to UCLA fans for this game is Herb Sendak. Yep, the ASU coach. Sendak not only beat UCLA the first time they played he drew up a game plan that a worse USC team copied to beat UCLA at home. Sendak masterfully exploited three of UCLA weaknesses: Larry Drew II's reluctance to shoot, inability to stop a pick and roll or a decent big, and rebounding. ASU not only beat UCLA they gave them their worst loss the season by 18 points in the first game.

And this did not have to happen. ASU out rebounded UCLA by 20 but it is tied for second worst in the conference in rebounding margin with a -.2 average for the season. Sendak figured out how to exploit David Wear's softness and Shabazz's defensive focus of being out first on the break.

Jordan Bachinskyi, a good shot blocker but otherwise average big, scored his career high 22 points by simply going to the rim after shots or pick and rolls. Sendak did what a good coach and exploited match ups and made his average player something special for the night. He also had Gilling draw Kyle Anderson outside and make the entry pass so no big to big double teams were possible and UCLA's best rebounder was far from the rim.

But the good news for UCLA is the third problem is fixed. Larry Drew II has shot 13-21 from three the last 8 games and is making teams play him. Carson can't take the game off on defense and play a one man zone like he did the first game. By being forced play him, Drew had 13 assists tied for his season high the second game against ASU versus only 4 in the first game.

* * *

So this game should be really easy. UCLA even got lucky with ASU playing such a close overtime game and now having to play again in less than 24 hours. Jahii is really good but he should be a bit tired after 43 minutes and his career high for points. He literally did it all and ASU only won because of his incredible game and effort. Two afternoons in a row is a lot to ask.

But of course this is UCLA 2013. Will UCLA get up for this game? Will UCLA play zone to help minimize the incredible athleticism and quickness of Jahii? (Of course not.) Will Shabazz stay home on D more to rebound in front of his town Vegas crowd? Will Howland find a way to keep Anderson close to the basket to rebound on defense? UCLA wins if Howland answers just a few of these questions right.

In other words, UCLA fans will have to worry if Howland will blow it.

Go Bruins!