TCU is one of four NCAA Tournament teams who don’t yet know exactly who they’ll be playing in the first round. Along with the Horned Frogs, Florida, Villanova, and Xavier are also awaiting the results of midweek games to find out who they play.
For the Frogs, Wednesday night’s matchup between Arizona State and Syracuse holds the answer. Two of the last teams to make it in, the Sun Devils and Orange are both intriguing teams, and both have a legion of college basketball fans screaming at them that they didn’t deserve to get in (looking specifically at Notre Dame, USC, Oklahoma State, and Baylor fans).
And yet, here they are, playing for the right to face TCU in Detroit on Friday night. Here’s a quick look at both teams.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Record: 20-11 | RPI: 58 | BPI: 44 | KenPom: 45
The Sun Devils went 12-0 through their non-conference slate, which included double-digit wins over now-1-seeds Kansas and Xavier, as well as wins over Kansas State and San Diego State.
However, ASU has gone just 8-11 since entering PAC-12 play, and have lost five of their last six games, including a loss to Colorado in the first round of the PAC-12 tournament.
Led by a duo of senior guards, Tra Holder (18.4 ppg) and Shannon Evans II (16.6 ppg), Arizona State averages 83.5 points per game, which is impressive at first glance. However, the Sun Devils shoot just 46.4% from the floor as a team, and 36.4% from three point range.
Defensively, Arizona State gives up just over 75 points to opposing teams per contest.
In fact, they mirror TCU in a way: they’re an offensive-first team who sometimes struggles defensively, with the big difference being TCU’s offense is moderately more efficient, and the Frogs are a better rebounding team on both ends of the court.
Record: 20-13 | RPI: 40 | BPI: 53 | KenPom: 54
The Orange were, for all intents and purposes, the last team in the tournament, meaning that they, specifically, are catching a lot of hate from some of the teams left out in the cold this March.
It’s not hard to see why teams like Notre Dame and Oklahoma State are upset about Syracuse’s inclusion. The Orange only have four Quadrant 1 wins (Clemson, Buffalo, Miami, Louisville), and they lost head to head to Notre Dame this season.
They also dropped games to 11-20 Wake Forest, 13-19 Georgia Tech, and suffered a 78-59 thumping at the hands of North Carolina in the ACC tournament.
Tyus Battle leads the way for the Orange, averaging over 19 points per contest, but as a team Syracuse averages just 67.5 points per game and shoots just 41.8% from the floor.
Defensively, though, the Orange allow just 64.5 points per game to opponents on 39.6% shooting from the floor, as they look to slow games down and keep things low-scoring.
Prediction: While they’re defensively sound against average and even above-average offensive teams, Syracuse has struggled against offensively efficient teams this season. In nine games against Top 30 teams in offensive efficiency, Syracuse is 0-9 while giving up 71.7 points per game. Arizona State is 17th in the country in offensive efficiency (TCU is 8th), and I think that makes all the difference. Give me the Sun Devils to advance and face TCU.