Bobby Hurley vs. Coach K in Salt Lake City, Utah: Here’s how ASU wins 75-73 tonight…
Coach Larry Krystkowiak took his Alma Mater, the University of Montana to two NCAA tournaments in his first two seasons at the helm. In his first seven campaigns at the University of Utah, he has enjoyed five 20 plus win seasons, two NCAA tournament runs and three NIT efforts. Quite a resume for Coach K isn’t it?
In 2017-18 Coach Krystkowiak led the Utes on an NIT championship final run in Madison Square Garden. Utah was a team Arizona State’s “Guard U” beat 80-77 at The Bank, and lost to 80-77 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake last year. Odd, but if the score is 80-77 tonight, I am going to start wearing tinfoil on my head. But expect the game to fall around that total (152.5 o/u).
Today, Larry Krystkowiak is in his eighth season as Utah men’s basketball coach. Larry Krystkowiak has tallied 152 wins coming into tonight’s game in Salt Lake City! To suggest this is a “must win” game for Bobby Hurley’s program would be an understatement after losing in Boulder Wednesday night.
Krystkowiak who played 10 seasons in the NBA, knows hot to exploit the tendencies of opposing teams, he is somewhat of a Zen Chess Master when it comes to managing each game. Arizona State struggled in Boulder, the 5,300 ft. elevation didn’t exactly help our Sun Devils rally late. Salt Lake City sits at 4,200 ft. above sea level, and that drop in elevation will lift Bobby Hurley’s entire team up. But winning in Salt Lake City is not easy.
Think about it, the Denver Nuggets are two games back of the Golden State Warriors at the All-Star break in the Association. They are 25-4 at home in Denver and 14-14 on the road. No excuses of course, but elevation is no joke! The Utah Jazz are 14-15 on the road and 18-10 at home by the way.
The Colorado Buffaloes have only lost three games at home to date, against Washington and Oregon State, both teams are Jekyll-and-Hyde Devils have beat. The third game came against Indiana State University. Terre Haute, Indiana sits around 499 feet above sea level, lower than the Valley of the Sun (1,140’), so how did they do something our Sun Devils could not?
Utah at home? They lost four. Pay attention now. Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, and Nevada all beat the Utes at home. Arizona State had Nevada on the ropes earlier this season and let a 12 point halftime lead slip away in a 72-66 loss. They were outscored in the second half by 18 to the Wolfpack! Arizona State beat the other three Pac-12 opponents.
Think about the Nevada collapse and compare it to the Utah one. Arizona State had the Runnin’ Utes behind at one point by 17 at The Bank. Utah made necessary adjustments out-scoring the Sun Devils by 14 in the second half en route to a 96-86 win.
Tonight is going to be close, and the Sun Devils need Coach Bobby Hurley, now in his fourth year to put his young team in the best situations to win. Utah has a ton to play for at 14-10. The DieHard world is watching, and so is the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee which still has the struggling Devils on the bubble. The computers pick the Sun Devils to win, but Vegas has ASU at +1.5 as an underdog. The same line they had in the Colorado loss by the way.
But tonight, Arizona State for 40 minutes must attack the center of the defense, regardless if it is a zone or not. We all know they have struggled with long zones, but have had some major breakthroughs on that front this season.
7’ Center Jayce Johnson is the tall and long center ASU has struggled with recently. Forwards Donnie Tillman and Timmy Allen can score and defend in the post. Tillman worked the inside of the Sun Devils for 21 points in January. Guard Sedrick Barefield dropped 24 on our young guards on 5-11 from three-point range. Guard Parker Van Dyke was 4-7 from three against the Devils and on Thursday Night hit 7 three’s against the Arizona Wildcats.
“Remember basketball is a game of habits. If you make the other guy deviate from his habits, you’ve got him” – Bill Russell.
How do the Jekyll-and-Hyde Sun Devils beat the Utes tonight? Everyone in the Pac-12 knows to let ASU jack-up three-pointers. Especially the young, energetic Luguentz Dort. Remy “Share the Sugar” Martin and Luguentz Dort both have to consistently attack the rim as well as the middle of the defense for 40 minutes.
Arizona State as a team can do this via pass or dribble with the speed and agility of its young guards and power forwards. When a double team arrives, or the Utah zone pinches on our young guards, the ball has to move to a cutting Sun Devil.
Statistically speaking, this is also the best time to pass the ball outside for a 3-point shot attempt. When NCAA players receive the ball already squared to the time they have greater success. Cherry, Lawrence, and Edwards should have a field day from outside, and I see Lawrence cutting backdoor for easy layups and baseline dunks.
Finally, Cheatham and White need to receive the ball on the block. No one-handed no-look passes for turnovers tonight from Remy. White, Cheatham, and Lake should dominate the boards and also garner 15 or more shot attempts. ASU would do very well to run the ball through the middle of the defense, and I might suggest playing Luguentz Dort in the post a little bit too! Coach Bobby Hurley needs to get 10 players into the game if he wants to have legs on defense in the second half.
ASU is going to get this one 75-73. After-all, they lost the last game and we all know what has to happen next!