Detroit was the Horizon League's participant in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, and the favorite for 2013, but after a slightly disappointing performance this season (2-7 against RPI top-100 this season, second place finish in the conference regular season, one and done in the conference tournament) they are off to the NIT to face Arizona State, a team of disappointment themselves.
Entering a game against Arizona on January 19, the Sun Devils were 14-3 (3-1 PAC 12) and looked to be having a great season. They were routed by the Wildcats on their home court and then the bottom started to fall out. They closed the season 7-8 and had a four-game losing streak entering the conference tournament. After barely edging out Stanford in the first game of the conference tournament, their NCAA hopes were dashed by UCLA. The talented Sun Devils would have to wait to see if they could get a home NIT game.
This game features two highly talented starting fives as well as some very well rested benches. Each team has only one player who averages more than 10 minutes off the bench: Chris Colvin for Arizona St. and Evan Bruinsma for Detroit. If either team gets into foul trouble, it could be curtains for their 2012-13 campaign.
At point guard, each team has a shoot first, drive to the hole, and get fouled type guard. Detroit's Ray McCallum, the Horizon League POY, has had NBA scouts buzzing about him since his outstanding sophomore season. On the other side of the court Jahii Carson has been shooting up draft boards with an explosive freshman year that is awfully similar to his first step on the court. So far McCallum has been slowed by some of the better points in his conference so we'll have to see how he deals with another shorter and faster defender hounding him all game.
The secondary players will definitely need to step up for each side. ASU's Senior Carrick Felix will provide interesting matchup problems for Detroit-- he's a swingman who can pop out for the quick jumper and he's one of the best finishers around the rim. I would expect him to see Nick Minnerath and Juwan Howard Jr. switching off of him frequently to give him different looks.
Minnerath will be a key on the offensive side as well, and could cause for an tough choice for Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek: they don't have anyone quite at Minnerath's height and speed combination. For Detroit's senior sniper Jason Calliste, three will be the key word for him as he will need to be ready to hit the kick out jumpers and be ready to defend ASU's third scoring option Evan Gordon.
If ASU can use their superior size advantage with Jordan Bachynski they should be able to roll, but with a team as athletic and fast as Detroit anything is possible.
The game will tip on ESPNU at 10:00pm EST on Wednesday and the winner will face the winner of Baylor and Long Beach St.