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ASU expert previews the Arizona game, makes a score prediction

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

These guys again?

The No. 22 Arizona Wildcats (13-5, 3-2) will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (11-7, 2-3) for the second time in a month on Saturday, only this time in Tempe.

Arizona blasted ASU 75-47 in Tucson on Jan. 4, and will go for the sweep of its in-state rival at newly-renamed McKale North Desert Financial Arena.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network.

We wanted to know more about the Sun Devils and see what, if anything, has changed since the first matchup between these teams, so we caught up with Jacob Rosenfarb of for some insight.

Here’s our Q&A:

AZDS: How has ASU changed since the first matchup?

JR: With the two games coming within such a short time period of one another, ASU hasn’t undergone drastic changes since their 28-point loss to UA earlier this month. The most sizable difference though stems from the health of junior forward Romello White, who is fully recovered from an ankle injury that severely limited him in the previous matchup.

Bobby Hurley has also seemed to land on a starting lineup he feels comfortable with, sending redshirt senior guard Rob Edwards to the bench in favor of junior forward Kimani Lawrence. The move has added more balance to the starting group, while adding more scoring punch to a previously anemic bench unit.

AZDS: How will having a healthier Romello White help the Sun Devils this time?

JR: Based on the lack of depth behind him, one could make the argument White is the most irreplaceable player on ASU’s roster. His diminished health in the earlier matchup played a substantial role in the lopsided score, and a return to full strength for White should lead to a much more competitive matchup this time around.

Offensively, he often works as the fulcrum of the Sun Devil attack, providing a nice compliment to junior guard Remy Martin as an effective scorer both in the pick and roll and on the block. Defensively, he has taken substantial strides in his time in Tempe as a rim protector, upping his block total every season, landing on a respectable 1.2 a game so far this year.

AZDS: How different are the Sun Devils at home?

JR: Like any mercurial shooting team, ASU certainly benefits from the friendly confines of Desert Financial Arena. Each of the Sun Devils three strongest shooting performances have come at home, and the team owns a 7-2 record at home compared to a 4-5 record on the road.

Interestingly enough, two of ASU’s highest scorers own worse shooting percentages at home contests versus road, as Martin (43% home, 44% road) and Edwards (33%, 41%) have been slightly less effective at home. They are the aberration though, as the majority of the team has seen distinct improvement at home.

AZDS: What were ASU’s biggest issues the first time they played Arizona, and what do they have to do to fix them?

JR: ASU’s loss to Arizona earlier this season was the Sun Devils worse performance of the season, registering season-lows in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists. Martin was the only Sun Devil to score more than 8 points, and his fellow starters combined to go 4-20 from the field. Simply through regression to the mean, ASU will improve in all of these categories come Saturday.

Schematically though, Hurley will have to look to create easier shots for Martin, Edwards and Alonzo Verge Jr. The trio of guards struggled to get high quality looks in the team’s first matchup, due in some part to White’s ineffective play. A healthy White, combined with a greater emphasis on pace and ball control, should yield better results for ASU this time around.

AZDS: Does the Curtain of Distraction even work?

JR: Obviously. You can’t tell me this wouldn’t throw you off.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

AZDS: Score prediction?

71-63 UA. Certainly won’t be the blowout the earlier matchup was, but I think ASU just doesn’t have the depth to match up with UA.