Who: 7 Texas (23-10) vs. 10 Arizona State (21-11)
When: Thursday 6:40 PM PT
Where: Midwest Region, Milwaukee
Expect to see some great rim defense in this one as two teams who are in the Top 15 in the nation for blocks square off. The nation finally gets the chance to see the country's best shot blocker in Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski on a national stage as he takes on a couple of ample shot blockers themselves in Texas' Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes.
Who are the stars?
F Jonathan Holmes 6'8 240 Jr. Texas
The Longhorns' leading scorer is a strong presence down low that can also rack up rebounds and protect the rim. He's a tough player, that can get points for the Longhorns when they really need it, get to the rim and get to the line.
G Jahii Carson 5'10 180 So. Arizona State
An explosive fireball that plays much bigger than his stature, Carson is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection that is a competitive force that can do it all on the court. Carson can score, distribute, rebound and knock down the outside shot along with get to the rim.
G Isaiah Taylor 6'1 170 Fr. Texas
A quick point guard who keys the Longhorn offense, Taylor is a fantastic athlete and an asset on defense. He isn't a great shooter, but he can use his athleticism to get to the basket and create points.
Can Jahii Carson step up in his first game on a national stage?
Carson is one of the best players in the country at a major school that I feel the national audience hasn't seen much of. This will be a game short on scorers, and Carson will be far and away the best scorer on the court who has the ability to go off and take the game over by himself, but will he be able to is the question.
Can Jordan Bachynski stay out of foul trouble?
The nation's best shotblocker has the problem that many shotblockers do in that he is foul prone, averaging three per-game this season. Lacking other inside forces, and desperately needing one of their stars against a talented team in Texas, the Sun Devils cannot afford to have to be limiting his time on the court due to foul trouble.
You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want Arizona State to win?
The Sun Devils have been right on the cusp of being good under Herb Sendek the past few seasons, but they just haven't been able to breakthrough to the NCAA Tournament and now they finally have done it in the final year of their Carson/Bachynski window. This might be the Sun Devils' last chance to win a game or two in the tournament for a while, so you should be pulling for them to do it while they can.
Carson and Bachynski are one of my favorite, underappreciated duos in the country and the Longhorns comically underachieve in the tournament under Rick Barnes. Carson will be far and away the best player on the court and I think he will use the national stage to make a name for himself and push the Sun Devils to a close win by making plays in the final minutes in a hard-fought game where points are not easy to come by.
Arizona State 61 Texas 60