Return of Guard U: Will ASU men's basketball's guard-heavy sets produce?

The Sun Devils' guards produced 61 of the team's 71 points against Colorado Buffaloes

ASU men's basketball head coach Bobby Hurley implemented groups of four or five guards at one time against Colorado, showing rotations the team could run in the future. 

When the Sun Devils announced sophomore forward Taeshon Cherry and redshirt junior forward Romello White would sit out the game due to a team policy infraction, Hurley was forced into playing a set of four to five guards for extended periods of time with varying levels of success.

Hurley believed the guard-heavy lineups were "the best way" for the team to succeed.

ASU deployed a five-guard set early, inserting sophomore guard Elias Valtonen, freshman guard Jaelen House and junior guard Alonzo Verge Jr. alongside junior guard Remy Martin and redshirt senior guard Rob Edwards

The five-guard group produced immediate results, with Edwards finding himself open after slipping off a screen. A rotation should have come from Martin’s defender, but he hesitated to do so because of the possibility of leaving him open.


Source: ESPN

The groups also allowed the team to create favorable mismatches on offense, much like the way Colorado switches on a screen, leaving a big to defend Martin.

The switch created two things: space and shooting windows. Martin attacked the mismatch and drew help, creating a large window for Valtonen to shoot. He would have had an open three-pointer if he didn’t bobble the pass. 

Martin received the ball back and this time took advantage of his defender sagging off by hitting a pull-up jumper.


Source: ESPN

The guard-heavy groups also allowed open space for drives, something Martin took full advantage of in the second half. The threat of multiple shooters kept help away from the paint, leaving Martin with a wide-open layup. 


Source: ESPN

Conversely, when defenders did decide to help, the spacing allowed drivers to find shooters with ease. Martin’s drive drew four sets of eyes to him, which left two shooters on the weak side open. He dished it to House, who drained the three-pointer.


Source: ESPN

ASU guards produced 61 of the team's 71 points against Colorado. Martin noted the guards will produce similarly to those he played with his freshman year.

"The guard play is amazing," Martin said. "All of us can go off the dribble, kind of like my first year here. Guarding us should be pretty hard, defensively."

But the increase in speed, shooting and spacing that comes with playing five guards also produces the trade-off with size.

ASU was outrebounded 48-36 against Colorado. Hurley noted how well the guards battled defensively, saying, “There was so much fight from those guys,” but he then explaining it is not an expectation to run guard-heavy groups moving forward.

"I'm not going to say that that's who we are going forward," Hurley said. "We just had some time in China to experiment with Kimani (Lawrence) and Elias (Valtonen).

With Hurley noting Cherry and White are game-time decisions for their upcoming game against Central Connecticut State, he may need to rely on the guards again to bring the Sun Devils a win. 


Reach the reporter at jhorst2@asu.edu and follow @HorseySeven on Twitter.

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