Anyone in Arizona can tell you, it doesn’t matter what name is on the back of the jersey, these teams just flat out don’t like each other. The Wildcats whooped the Sun Devils in Tucson back on January 16 by a score of 91-68, so you can bet the Sun Devils will have revenge on their minds.
WHO: Arizona State Sun Devils (18-6, 7-4) vs. Arizona Wildcats (23-1, 10-1)
WHERE: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Arizona
WHEN: 7pm Local Time
Of course, that was before the Wildcats lost Brandon Ashley for the year with a broken foot. They’ll have to rely on some youngsters to carry them to a tough road win against a hated foe. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon will be leaned on heavily to keep Jahii Carson and the other Sun Devils at bay.
1. The matchup in the paint
Jordan Bachynski is coming off a great week after being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. He’s the all-time leader in blocked shots for the Pac-12 and has been effective offensively over his past few games. Can he dominate the frontcourt matchup without Ashley in the fold or will Kaleb Tarczewski and company have to rely on the perimeter game?
2. Carson’s offensive punch vs. Arizona’s stout defense
The Wildcats boast one of the best defenses in all of college basketball, allowing just 57 points per game, good for No. 3 in the nation. They do it with a blend of superb fundamental defense and quality defensive rebounding. They don’t force a ton of turnovers, as they get just 5.7 (241st in NCAA) steals per game. Carson averages 19 points per game and will need to create better looks for himself than he has in his previous month of action. He’s surpassed 50 percent shooting just once in his last 13 games.
3. Easy points at the free-throw line
Speaking of Carson, he’s been the catalyst for the Sun Devils getting easy points at the line as of late. He’s gone to the line 52 times in his last five games. The Sun Devils shoot 69.4 percent from the line as a team, but will need every single easy point they can get on Friday night. The Wildcats aren’t afraid of the Sun Devil defense (at least on the perimeter), but they’ve got offensive problems of their own. They shoot just 66.4 percent from the free-throw line and need to get points any way they can. They rank 121st in the nation in points (73.4) and have gotten past 70 once in their last six games.
Prediction: Arizona Wildcats 65, Arizona State Sun Devils 56