Yearly Christmas Gift for Arizona State Backers Against Lowly Pacific

Arizona State Basketball

Rainman M.

Friday, December 22, 2017 3:51 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 3:51 PM UTC

No. 3 Arizona (11-0) hosts Pacific (5-7) today at 3 ET. The Sun Devils are favored by 20 points. Should we take this chalk as a Christmas gift?

Pacific Tigers vs Arizona State Sun Devils

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Free NCAAB Pick: Arizona State -20Best Line Offered: at Heritage

Pacific won its first conference tournament game last season since joining the WCC in 2013. But this year’s Pacific is on a downward spiral, having to replace 4 starters, including its 2 leading scorers.

Anthony Townes (10.3 points per game), is Pacific’s top returning scorer and only returning starter. The power forward completes 55.4% from 2 and is third on the team in rebounds per game despite the limited number of possessions he’s involved in.

Pacific is having to rely on a patchwork lineup to eventually develop chemistry.

Point guard Kendall Small transferred from Oregon, where he barely played. Small is coming off his best game of the season, an 18-point performance in a near-upset of UNLV at home. But Small has yet to perform well on the road, where he has either managed few points, committed several turnovers, or both.

Shooting guard Robert Gallinat and small forward Jahlil Tripp are JuCo transfers. Gallinat leads the team with 14.3 points per game and is relatively ball-secure. Tripp leads the team in minutes and in rebounds, with 9.4 per game. But he has yet to find his stroke, shooting 42.6% from 2 and 17.6% from 3.

Guard Miles Reynolds, a transfer from Saint Louis who sat out last season, has been the most involved in his team’s possessions. He excels at drawing fouls, ranking 29th in the category, and completes 85.1% of his free throws.

Oddsmakers are struggling to catch up with Arizona State. ASU is 8-2-1 ATS with two wins as underdogs, including one at Kansas.

Guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans are the team’s top playmakers. Evans ranks 320th in assist percentage and 59th in turnover rate. Holder ranks 226th in assist rate and ranks 198th in 3-point percentage. Both excel at drawing fouls and average over 80% free throws. They lead the team in points per game— Holder with 21.5 and Evans with 17.5-- and in assists per game— Holder with 5 and Evans with 4.6.

The key to ASU’s improvement this season has been its strengthened front court. 6-8, 220 pound center Romello White is the ESPN Top 100 recruit from 2016, who has cleared his academic redshirt. White leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game. He ranks 66th with 68.4% completion from 2 and 24th in fouls drawn. Also power forward Kodi Justice has developed his physicality, improving his 2-point completion percentage from 42.9 last season to 64.7 this season (ranks 137th).

The Verdict

A guard-heavy team will typically rely on transition play to obviate its rebounding difficulties. The Sun Devils rank 54th in tempo and have the 35th-quickest average length of offensive possession. They rely especially on turnovers to ignite their transition game, ranking 40th in turnover percentage. Pacific, conversely, ranks 208th in giveaway percentage and is vulnerable to ASU’s transition game.

The Sun Devils, this year, are also more physical than Pacific, thanks to Justice and White. They rank 3rd in free throws attempted, while Pacific ranks 235th in free throws allowed.
They have so many sold shooting options, ranking in the top-50 in three-point and two-point percentage thanks to 4 players who rank in the top-500 in 2-point percentage and 2 who rank as highly in 3-point percentage. They’ll create sundry shooting opportunities against Pacific’s 292nd-ranked half-court defense.

Today is a great spot for Arizona State, which has covered its last game before Christmas 6 years in a row on our NCAAB Picks.

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