7 p.m. MST
One month ago, the trajectories of the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils didn't look like they would cross down the road.
Arizona throttled an undermanned Sun Devil team that was without shooting guard Jermaine Marshall. And while the game opened the curtains and shed light on ASU's biggest issue, talent deficiency, it didn't represent the talent that's there this year. Jahii Carson was in a slump, Jermaine Marshall was hurt and Jordan Bachynski couldn't handle UA's athleticism.
One month later, the rivals could be on a crash course.
This is how it normally goes in the middle of a Pac-12 schedule. Adversity is sometimes the toughest opponent.
The Wildcats and Sun Devils clash in Tempe on Friday night having gone through adversity, and seemingly, both could end up being better for it. Carson is back to his old self and Marshall is healthy. Most importantly perhaps, Bachynski is rolling off a Pac-12 Player of the Week award where he averaged 21.5 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks per game against the Oregon schools.
Sean Miller's club, meanwhile, has lost Brandon Ashley but perhaps is just as dangerous following a statement win against Oregon State this past weekend.
Will ASU have a chance? Maybe not, but the odds are it's a much closer contest than a month ago.
Foul trouble could cost 'Cats
The Sun Devils have a number of ways to get Arizona in foul trouble, and the Wildcats certainly don't want any part of finding themselves in that situation. A seven-deep roster might have found a lift after last game, when Jordin Mayes got hot in the second half, but it's still something to be concerned about if you're the Wildcats.
Bachynski has been getting most touches in the post of late, but the good news is Arizona won't have to double him with Kaleb Tarczewski having a favorable historical matchup with his ASU center counterpart.
Bachynski went 0-for-3 and played just 23 minutes against the Wildcats the first time around, and aside from three blocks struggled with the physicality in the paint. Yet, there's always a worry he could make a statement in perhaps his last game against the Wildcats.
"Jordan Bachynski's numbers jump out at you," Miller said this week. "He continues to be more assertive on offense, which is scary."
Carson is also a terror in terms of drawing fouls. In four of his last five games, he's hit the double-digit mark in free throws attempted, and ASU won all four games in which he did so.
As was the difference in the blowout against Oregon State, Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be important if Carson and Marshall shed Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell. The help defense from the forwards when Carson penetrates or Marshall works over screens is imperative to Arizona's success, and their ability to recover on shooters like Jonathan Gilling, who is now coming off the bench, and even Bo Barnes will be key.
Guns for hire
Gabe York, Elliott Pitts and even Mayes will need to make an impact in some way or another. Certainly, that group will be key in giving Miller some punch against ASU's matchup zone. If UA gets the ball moving side-to-side, it can eventually wiggle the Sun Devils out of position for wing three-pointers. Then, it's on the shooters to make them.
That's true for starters Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell as well.
Tarczewski should be relied upon for the starting unit. Arizona has no choice but to play inside out with that group, and Tarczewski's success could weigh heavily on Bachynski's struggles. And most of all, it'll pull in defenders and allow the Wildcats to get some solid looks from three-point range.