Oregon and Arizona State are set to square off in a few hours at the Wells Fargo Center in Tempe. Oregon swept the season series last year, but it featured some games to come down to the wire. We chat with Connor Pelton from House of Sparky, SB Nation's Arizona State blog, about tonight's game. Be sure to follow both Conor (@ConnorPelton28) and House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) on Twitter.
Be sure to also check out House of Sparky for additional coverage surrounding tonight's game.
First thing first, Michael Phelps behind the Curtain of Distraction? How did that come to be?
1. Phelps moved to Tempe last year to train under Arizona State's longtime swimming coach, so that's where the connection comes from. As I understand it, the executives of the 942 Crew (the Sun Devil student section) asked him if he would like to be in a Curtain of Distraction skit and Phelps really embraced it.
ASU has gotten off to a shaky start in the Pac-12, but picked up a much needed win against Oregon State on Thursday. What do you see has been the main issue the Sun Devils need to address?
The maroon and gold have a significant lack of size on the roster. They were able to get away with that in nonconference play, but the problem has been exposed badly in the first few weeks of the Pac-12 season. Senior Eric Jacobsen is the team's only true big man, and when he has to leave the floor the offense becomes very one-dimensional. Those offensive droughts have been Arizona State's biggest downfall to start Pac-12 play.
Tra Holder looks like he can put up some big scoring numbers, but other than him, who do you see as the guy Oregon will have to turn their focus to?
Watch out for Savon Goodman. The junior small forward is currently averaging 10.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and is back in full form after missing four games last month due to personal reasons. Outside of Holder, Goodman is the team's most explosive player and biggest threat to go off on any given night.
Last year, Arizona State lost a couple really close games to Oregon, including one that went to overtime. It looks like the Sun Devils have had a number of close losses as well. What do you see Arizona State needing to do to close this game out if it does go down to the wire like last year?
ASU's biggest problem this season has been their final possessions in close games. Part of that comes from having to spend so much energy on climbing out of early holes that the team looks exhausted in the final minute or two. It almost seems like if they don't jump out to an early lead and dominate from the outset, a loss is imminent.
To answer your question, a number of different things could help them close out a win. Lazy defense and poorly executed offensive sets have seemed to be the biggest problems in recent weeks, so I would say fixing those things are of the utmost importance.
Prediction time. Who wins, why and who is your game MVP?
Like I said above, it is tough to see Arizona State winning if they don't jump out and dominate from the beginning. I don't really see that happening against a talented and hot Oregon team. The Sun Devils will keep this one close, but until they prove they can win a tight game I don't think I can pick them. Give me the Ducks, 75-72, with Elgin Cook being the game's MVP.