Marquette's season to this point has been nothing short of a disappointment. Four games in, the Golden Eagles are 3-1, but about as disappointing as that record can get. The team's only convincing win of the season was by 43 against Grambling State, who Ken Pom ranks as the worst team in all of college basketball.
Thursday's 58-53 victory over New Hampshire sent as bad a message as a win possibly can. Marquette shot an abysmal 32.7 percent and 3-for-23 from beyond the arc against a team ranked 281 in Ken Pom. Overall, the Golden Eagles are shooting 38 percent from the field and 18 percent from three-point range this season.
So it stands to reason that a true road game against a solid Pac-12 squad in the Arizona Sun Devils Monday might overwhelm Marquette.
Everything Arizona State does offensively flows through 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard Jahii Carson. The Mesa, Ariz. native scores 23 points per game and is shooting 55 percent from both the field and three-point range this season. Marquette coach Buzz Williams called Carson a "true early entry" player in his post-game presser Thursday. The Golden Eagles will have to throw their best defender on him at all times in hopes of containing his elite scoring ability.
Carson doesn't do everything on his own, however. The Sun Devils, who score 86 points per game as a team, have two other double digit scorers. Six-foot-4 senior guard Jermaine Marshall scores 15.8 points per game. He shoots a stellar 43 percent from deep and provides ASU with a viable second option on the perimeter alongside Carson. Conversely, 7-foot-2 senior center Jordan Bachynski scores 14 points per game in the post for the Sun Devils. He will present Chris Otule and Davante Gardner with difficulty down low, and the foul situation between those three big men could play a major role in the outcome of Monday's game.
Rounding out ASU's lineup are junior forward Jonathan Gilling and senior forward Shaquielle McKissic. Volgograd, Russia's Egor Koulechov averages 20 minutes off the bench as a wingman.
Marquette's Big Question
Can Marquette make enough shots to win?
I was considering asking a question about Carson and shutting him down defensively, but Marquette's performance Monday will come down to its ability to make shots. The stats are gaudy, but here's another one to consider: Marquette hasn't made double digit field goals in a half since the Grambling game. Outside of that game, the team has made double digit field goals in just one of its six halves. Marquette needs to play a complete offensive game to have any chance of winning on the road against a game opponent in ASU.
Where will the shooting come from? Todd Mayo seems like a likely source. He has attacked aggressively his last two games to limited success, but seems due for big game. Who knows, maybe Jake Thomas can make a few long balls to get Marquette going early. He's got to do something to justify starting for the fifth game in a row.
If Marquette plays anything like it has the last two games, this is a loss, plain and simple. However, Marquette will wake up on the road and make significantly more shots than it has the last two games. That being said, Carson is a star, and Marquette will struggle to shut him down all night long. The Sun Devils win a close one, 70-65.