GAME NOTES: Two of the top guards in the nation will get together as Jahii Carson and the Arizona State Sun Devils host Ray McCallum and the Detroit Titans for the first round of the NIT at Wells Fargo Arena.
Whichever team advances will take on the winner of the Baylor/Long Beach State matchup with the date, site and time still to be determined.
Arizona State exceeded expectations this season after being picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 in the preseason by winning 22 games for just the 10th time in school history. Carson earned co-Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors by scoring 20 points or more on 16 different occasions and ranking first in the nation among freshmen with 18.3 ppg. With Carson leading Herb Sendek's squad, the Sun Devils compiled a 15-4 record in Tempe and could tie the school record for home wins if they take down Detroit.
The Sun Devils managed to get by Stanford and claim an 89-88 overtime victory in their first Pac-12 Tournament game but then fell, 80-75, to UCLA in their next appearance. Jordan Bachynski's game-best 22 points wasn't enough for ASU. Carson added 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the setback. Carrick Felix (14.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) looked good in the postseason opener, hanging up a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double in the victory. The 6-foot-6 swingman then disappeared to produce only seven points in the loss to the Bruins. Evan Gordon (10.2 ppg) and Jonathan Gilling (9.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg) are solid complementary scorers, while Bachynski (9.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 bpg) has a knack for protecting the rim in addition to punching in points on the interior.
This will be just the fourth meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood. ASU owns a 2-1 lead in the rivalry that has been idle since 1995.
As for Detroit's star guard, McCallum was deemed the top player in the Horizon League after pacing the Titans in scoring (19.2 ppg), assists (4.7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg). Detroit finished second in the league standings, behind Valparaiso, and registered some impressive victories over Akron, Canisius and the top-seeded Crusaders. With their star point guard leading the way, the Titans average 78.1 ppg, the ninth most among Division I programs.
Detroit came up short in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals and dropped a 56-54 decision to Wright State on a neutral floor. Jason Calliste led the team with 17 points while McCallum played uncharacteristically poor, going 1- of-7 from the floor to net just five points. He did however manage to grab seven rebounds and swipe five steals, but also finished with zero assists. Doug Anderson and Nick Minnerath have combined to average 27.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Together the two Titan senior big men are responsible for 34.5 percent of the scoring and 3.12 percent of the rebounding for the team.
The point guard duel should be one for the ages, but it will most likely come down to the production of the role players. The matchup of Minnerath and Bachynski in the middle will be interesting as Minnerath has shown the ability to shoot from the outside, which will test the defensive versatility of ASU's center. The homecourt edge gives ASU a slight advantage, but Detroit may just find a way to win.
Game Date and Time