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Arizona basketball: Wildcats vs Arizona State preview

Arch rival Arizona State is first up on the Wildcats' Pac-12 schedule.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Let the fun and games begin! Arizona and Arizona State’s heated rivalry will kick off Sunday evening at the McKale Center. Historically, the Wildcats have beaten the Sun Devils a whopping 50 of 73 games. Arizona’s last home loss to ASU came in February 2010 which marked one of the few years the Wildcats did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

The Sun Devils (8-5) are looking for someone to fill in the shoes of last year’s leader Jahii Carson. They also lost two other crucial players in center Jordan Bachynski and guard Jermaine Marshall. UNLV transfer Savon Goodman has been one of the solutions for ASU. He is the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game and also averages a team-high eight rebounds.

Sophomore guard Shaquielle McKissic has stepped into a bigger role thanks to the loss of Carson. He has already scored nearly half his point total from last season. Eric Jacobsen, 6’10 junior from Scottsdale, AZ, leads the team in minutes this year. His all-around contribution will continue to be vital to the outcome of each game.

ASU's five losses have come by a margin of only 3.8 points.  It dropped a pair of hotly contested games to Maryland and Alabama in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in late November. The Sun Devils proceeded to fall just short in a one-point loss at Texas A&M. Their other road defeat came against Marquette and a disappointing home loss to Lehigh followed.

The Wildcats are not exactly in the same boat in terms of returning players. However, they will eventually need to find someone to take the place of Nick Johnson who was Arizona’s leader on and off the court last season. Senior point guard T.J. McConnell has arguably become that guy. He will need to take great responsibility in maintaining the chemistry of this highly regarded group.

At first sight, the Wildcats’ superb defensive effort and explosive athleticism should be too much for this young ASU team to handle. Arizona struggled getting off to quick starts earlier in the season. However, it has since fixed that problem in recent victories over Michigan, Oakland and UTEP.

The Wildcats should be able to use their athleticism to force turnovers and get out in transition throughout the game. I expect them to act as the superior team and wipe away the bad guys by a comfortable margin.

Time

5 PM MST

TV

Fox Sports 1

Announcers

Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery! ONIONS!

Streaming

Fox Sports Go