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Tale of the tape

Round Of 64 Matchup: #7 Texas Vs. #10 Arizona State

By Shawn S. Lealos

The Arizona State Sun Devils made it into the NCAA Tournament as a bubble team after losing the last three games of the season. That puts them in a tough spot, as losing streaks are hard to break in this tournament. However, the Texas Longhorns have been up and down all year, winning seven in a row at one point, only to get blown out by Kansas State and swept by their division rival Oklahoma Sooners.

(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images) (credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images) (credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

#7 Texas

#10 Arizona State

Rick Barnes has been coaching the Texas Longhorns for 16 years, and after Texas missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in his tenure last season, some called for his head. One year later he has them back in the Big Dance with a 22-win season, his 14th 20-plus win season while at Texas. Coaching Herb Sendek has his Sun Devils back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since James Harden was playing for the team, and while they fluttered at the end of the season, the Sun Devils are stronger than they have been in years. Honestly, this team is a mishmash of characters, but Sendek had them playing well enough to make it into March Madness.
The Longhorns biggest problem is inconsistency. That makes their best player Jonathan Holmes, a junior forward, who is the most stable player on the team. He leads the group with 13.0 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. While Texas ranked 84th in scoring, they are best off the boards ranking fourth for offensive rebounds in the nation. Cameron Ridley is also very dangerous with the ball, averaging 11.5 points. Offense The best player on this team is Jahii Carson, a point guard who averages 18.7 points a game. He is the third fastest player in Arizona State history to reach the 1,000 point mark and has already announced he is headed to the NBA. The team runs a lot of screens, and it is Carson that is almost always set up to take the ball to the basket. They are also the top three-point shooting team in the Pac-12.
Defensively, Texas is very similar to their offensive stats. They rank horribly low in points allowed, giving up 70 a game, but are a Top 20 team in rebounds and blocks per game. They switch back and forth from man and zone defenses based on opponents. Demarcus Holland is a monster on defense, and Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes alone average 15.3 rebounds a game. Defense Heading into the tournament, ASU has to be worried about their defensive performance. They rank a low 142nd in the nation in points allowed and that was evident as their season roared to a close. In their final three losses, Arizona State gave up an average of 80.7 points per game and allowed opponents to shoot 49.4 percent from the field.
Connor Lammert is the top man off the bench, averaging 20.4 minutes, but both Prince Ibeh and Kendal Yancy also play double-digit minutes. This is a unit that thrives on playing fast, physical ball, but the Longhorns strength is with their starters. Bench Depth The top player off the bench for the Sun Devils is forward Jonathan Gilling, who averages 27.3 minutes per game and remains a solid contributor. Last season, Gilling hit a team high 84 three point shots, and while he was down this season to only 62, his percentage was up to 42.5 percent from beyond the arc.

We'll just call it a tie

(credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images) (credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This one is just too tough to call. Both teams have stars, with Arizona State having the advantage thanks to Jahii Carson, who will be playing in the NBA next season. However, Texas is well coached and has a strong core of players who can beat anyone on any given day. If the Longhorns get that tempo going and hit the offensive boards, they will take this game, but if the Sun Devils can start connecting on shots, specifically from three point range, Arizona State could squeak out a win here. Looking at the match up, this should go to Texas in a close game by about three points.

-Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience in the media He covers all things college basketball. Find his work at Examiner.com.

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