Tip-off in Tucson is set for 2 p.m. MST on CBS. ASU will be going for its first sweep of Arizona since the 2008-09 season.
We wanted to get more insight on the Sun Devils beforehand, so we chatted with House of Sparky’s Alec Henden.
Here is our Q&A.
Entering Saturday’s game with 20 wins, is it safe to say this has been a good season for the Sun Devils?
Alec Henden: I’d say this is definitely a good season for ASU despite the head scratching play at times. They’ve catapulted to the top of the conference after years of mediocrity and showed an ability to bring in high level talent. Luguentz Dort is the kind of prospect that shows that Bobby Hurley and Co. can recruit and contend in a normally solid conference.
Why has ASU been so inconsistent this year?
AH: The Sun Devils are a textbook example of a team that plays to level of their completion. Beating a good Kansas team as well as good wins over Mississippi State and Utah State should make them a surefire tournament team. But the bad losses to Princeton and Washington State have them squarely on the bubble. Perhaps the only silver lining of playing up to your competition makes them a dangerous team in a 6/11 matchup or to an even higher seed should they advance.
How much damage can Arizona do to ASU’s NCAA Tournament hopes?
AH: I don’t think a loss to Arizona would be that damaging considering just how one sided the history of the matchup is. ASU hasn’t won at McKale since 2010, but for the first time in forever have the more talented roster so this does provide a great opportunity to get the season sweep over the Wildcats. The only way I think it could damage their postseason chances is if ASU gets blown out and I don’t think that’ll happen.
What are the keys to Saturday’s game for ASU?
AH: ASU will need to control the glass like they did in their first matchup and use their size to exploit UA’s lack of depth in the front court. The Sun Devils are lucking out twice that they most likely won’t face a healthy Chase Jeter which makes a tremendous difference. If Arizona State converts on good looks around the basket they’ll have to like their chances.
How have the Sun Devils changed since they last played Arizona?
AH: At this point ASU lives and dies with their outside shooting. They probably take more three point shots than they should, but when they’re falling Arizona State is very tough to beat. Dort has broken out of his freshman slump re-emerging as an offensive force while continuing to be one of the conference’s better perimeter defenders. It will be interesting to see how they handle a truly hostile crowd which they really haven’t seen too often, especially for an emotional coach like Hurley and players that feed off the crowd’s energy.
AH: I’ll be pessimistic and say that Arizona gets the win at home on senior day primarily due to their crowd. But ASU is very capable of getting the win and it would be huge for the psyche of the program. I’ll say Arizona 73-68.