Nick's Picks: Predictions for week two of ASU men's basketball

State Press reporter Nick Hedges previews the busy week for the Sun Devil men's basketball team

Last week was productive for the ASU men’s basketball team. After dominating wins over Central Connecticut State and Rider, the Sun Devils take to the road to try and bolster their résumé in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. 

This weekend, ASU will be making the trip to Uncasville, Connecticut to play in the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament. They are guaranteed to play St. John’s (New York) on Saturday, and depending on how they do, they could play either Virginia or Massachusetts on Sunday. 

After the conclusion of the tournament, the Sun Devils will make the trip to New Jersey to play Princeton on Tuesday night. ASU has a busy week ahead, so let’s take a deeper look at what’s facing them.


ASU vs. St. Johns (New York) (Saturday, Nov. 23, 12:30 p.m. MST, Uncasville, Connecticut)

The two teams have grown very familiar by now. This will be the third straight season with a matchup between the Sun Devils and the Red Storm, and all three have been on a neutral floor. 

Two years ago, current redshirt junior Romello White scored 22 points, leading ASU to an 82-70 win in Los Angeles. Last season, ASU played St. John’s in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament. ASU won that matchup as well by a score of 74-65, holding the Red Storm to just under 32% shooting.

Things are looking favorable for the Sun Devils to make it three in a row. ASU is bringing back the bulk of the team that beat St. John’s last year, while the Red Storm lost some key contributors, namely guard Shamorie Ponds. While ASU’s top two scorers from last year’s meeting are also gone, I like their odds to make up for the loss in this game.

The composite index also likes ASU’s chances. The Sun Devils currently double the Red Storm’s composite index, and their ability to create turnovers and block shots boosts their score quite a bit. Expect this one to be more low-scoring than the previous two meetings, but I still think ASU will come out on top.

ASU: 66.94% chance to win
St. John’s (New York): 33.06% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 69, St. John’s 63


ASU vs. Virginia (Sunday, Nov. 24, 1 p.m. MST, Uncasville, Connecticut)

If the prediction from above is correct, the Sun Devils will likely play the defending national champions on Sunday. Of course, it will be an uphill battle for ASU. 

Virginia has given up the fewest points and the lowest field goal percentage in the nation so far, so ASU could struggle to put up points. The Cavaliers’ offense is nothing to write home about, but frankly, it may not matter. ASU will need monumental offensive performances from key scorers like junior guard Remy Martin and junior guard Alonzo Verge, Jr. if they want to have a chance.

Additionally, ASU will have to contend with Mamadi Diakite, one of the nation’s best defenders. He is the anchor of Virginia’s famous defense, and his contributions were massive for the Cavaliers’ trip to the National Championship. He is averaging almost a double-double this season, and he will likely make ASU’s afternoon nightmarish.

The composite index presents a telling story for what ASU will be up against. The Sun Devils will be forced to face one of the nation’s premier defenses with undersized, inexperienced players on the court for most of the game. I don’t like the Sun Devils’ chances in that exchange.

Virginia: 93.37% chance to win
ASU: 6.63% chance to win
Prediction: Virginia 66, ASU 50


ASU vs. Massachusetts (Sunday, Nov. 24, 3:30 p.m. MST, Uncasville, Connecticut)

If ASU loses to St. John’s, they likely draw a much easier Sunday matchup against UMass. The Minutemen were 4-0 heading into the week, but their victory against Rider on Wednesday night stretched that record to 5-0.

However, ASU will likely be able to out-talent their way to a win here. ASU outscores UMass in pretty much every metric in the composite index, giving them an overwhelmingly higher score. The Minutemen come in with a composite index of 71.55, which is less than 10% of ASU’s score. Enough said.

ASU: 94.28% chance to win
Massachusetts: 5.72% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 78, Massachusetts 63


ASU vs. Princeton (Tuesday, Nov. 26, 5 p.m. MST, Princeton, New Jersey)

The composite index was surprisingly decisive when predicting this game. Princeton’s composite index is barely positive, so ASU has over a 99% chance to win, according to the metric.

However, I would not be so sure that this will be a blowout. The Tigers came to Tempe and beat the Sun Devils last year, and given the nature of that game, a similar result would not be all that surprising.

While this game will be closer than the composite index suggests, ASU should still come out with a win. Princeton began the week at 0-3, and after a visit to Indiana Wednesday night, they stand at 0-4. Their first three losses came by a combined 44 points against Duquesne, San Francisco and Lafayette. If those games are any indication, the Sun Devils should handle their business on Tuesday night.

ASU: 99.41% chance to win
Princeton: 0.59% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 77, Princeton 72


Now, let’s take a look at where each team in the Pac-12 stands in the composite index after the first full week of games:

A team's composite index is one number formed using stats and recruiting rankings from the past several years and games played this year. Read below to see specifics about how the composite index is formed.

The primary component of the composite index is a custom power index formed by statistics from previous seasons as well as recruiting rankings from the past several years. Stats are collected from www.sports-reference.com and recruiting rankings are pulled from www.247sports.com.

Essentially, stats that help a team’s success are added to the score, and metrics that hurt are subtracted. This one-number scoring system makes for easy mathematical predictions for each game.

Because the current season is in progress, the system weighs recruiting rankings and stats from previous years higher than this season's numbers. As the season progresses, the composite index will weigh current statistics more and more. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated ASU's chance to win in its game versus Virginia. It has been updated to reflect these changes.


Reach the reporter at nkhedges@asu.edu and follow @nicktrimshedges on Twitter.

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