Purdue get another major conference opponent tonight, and that is a good thing. Even if Arizona State struggles in the Pac-12, by virtue of playing in the Pac-12 their RPI and KenPom numbers should stay pretty strong. They aren’t likely to tank as far down as Rutgers last year. It is hoped that they can get into the top 100 to provide a resume boost to our NCAA profile.
I say this because this is a game Purdue should win. The last two years have seen the Sun Devils be pretty mediocre, but they are in year two under former Duke legend Bobby Hurley, so in the long run they should be a decent team. They can challenge Purdue tonight, and even though Purdue is 12-9 all-time at Madison Square Garden, it has lost three in a row there.
It’s time to change that trend.
Arizona State Sun Devils
From: Tempe, AZ
Date : Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Tip Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: New York City, NY
Arena: Madison Square Garden (19,812)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 11.5
2015-16 Record: 15-17, 5-13 Pac-12
2016-17 Record: 5-3
Opponent Blog: House of Sparky
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 3-2
Last Arizona State Win: 70-53 on 12/21/2002 in Las Vegas, NV
Last Purdue Win: 92-87 (OT) on 12/29/1978 in Honolulu, HI
NCAA Tournament History: 14 appearances. Elite 8 in 1961, 1963, and 1975. Last appearance in 2014
Purdue’s defense will be tested tonight. Arizona State likes to get up and down the floor and score points. They are currently 28th nationally in scoring at 85 points per game. They make up for it by absolutely refusing to play defense. They are 329th nationally out of 347 teams, giving up 82.9 per game.
Part of that comes from who they have played. They won a 127-110 win over The Citadel and The Citadel plays a ridiculously up tempo style reminiscent of Loyola Marymount and Bo Kimble. They also traveled to the Bahamas to play Kentucky in the Atlantis Showcase and the Wildcats blasted them 115-69. That gave them consecutive games where they gave up 110 points or more.
The Sun Devils don’t really have a good win yet. All five victories have come against teams below 200 in the current RPI (Portland State, Cal Poly, Tulane, The Citadel, and UNLV), while their three games against top 100 teams (Northern Iowa, Davidson, and Kentucky) have ended in losses. Northern Iowa beat them by 19 and Davidson got them by 8. Their games against Northern Iowa, Tulane, and Davidson came in the Tire Pros Invitational in Orlando.
The Sun Devils have an impressive five players who average in double figures, including one that should be a great test for Caleb Swanigan. Obinna Oleka is a 6’8” senior forward who is averaging a double-double with 11.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. He can step outside and shoot from the perimeter like Swanigan, so he should be a very interesting test for Caleb on both ends of the floor.
What will really test Purdue is a back court trio that has each member averaging over 17 points per game. Tra Holder (17.5 ppg, 2 apg), Torian Graham (17.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), and Shannon Evans II (17 ppg, 4.6 apg) are an extremely talented and high scoring back court. Evans followed Hurley from Buffalo to Arizona State and is in his first year in Tempe. He is also shooting 42.6% from three. Graham is a former top 100 recruit that also followed Hurley from Buffalo. He is shooting 42.4% from three. Holder is more of an attacking guard, but he is still shooting 48.9% from the field.
The athleticism and scoring ability of that back court is going to challenge Purdue, especially if our post players get in foul trouble. I am not sure Purdue has an advantage if we have to play small ball, but we will see. For good measure 6’6” freshman Sam Cunliffe is averaging 10.9 points and 5 rebounds per game as a complimentary player. The good news is that there is a severe dropoff in contributors outside of this top 5. Kodi Justice averages 6.8 points in 24 minutes per night, but this is a strict seven man rotation with Ramon Vila averaging 15 minutes and 2.6 points per game.
That seven man rotation is where Purdue should thrive. Vila is the tallest of those seven players at only 6’8”, so Purdue should have an overwhelming advantage in the post once again. Isaac Haas is going to have six inches in height over everyone they can throw at him except for the seldom used Jethro Tshisumpa. Do you really think a guy named Jethro is stopping Isaac?
I think this game is going to be a fun one with a lot of scoring. Arizona State struggles to stop many teams and has no size to match Haas and Swanigan. Their guards are up tempo and high scoring though. They shoot 39% from three as a team and they can make Purdue pay for careless turnovers. Purdue should win this game, but it needs to be careful.