Arizona (13-5, 3-2 Pac-12) rolled to a 75-47 home win over the Sun Devils (11-7, 2-3) on Jan. 4, but playing on the road is a different scenario. The Wildcats are 0-3 in true road games this season, have lost four straight on the road dating back to last March and fell 95-88 in overtime at Wells Fargo Arena (now Desert Financial Arena) in their last visit.
Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. MT and the game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. Head to our basketball section for complete coverage.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 69-65
Remy Martin had 20 points for ASU in Tucson while the rest of ASU managed 27, with two starters failing to score. Don’t expect the Sun Devils to be nearly as one-dimensional this time around, even though Martin is the first Pac-12 player in 23 years to score at least 20 in their first five league games.
Like with every game from here on out, winning the rebounding battle will be key for Arizona. It is 13-1 when grabbing more boards and ASU is a team the Wildcats exploit in this area. This will be a homecoming for Nico Mannion, which could go either way if he and the other freshmen aren’t able to show the composure needed to win in a hostile environment.
Ronnie Stoffle — Arizona wins 70-61
I don’t think we’ll see another dejected version of Bobby Hurley in this one. Last time these two teams met in Tucson was the first time I’ve ever seen such a subdued version of Hurley.
He, like everyone else in the building, knew that ASU was over-matched by Arizona’s talent. Although that will be the case again on Saturday night, I don’t expect the exact same outcome as round one.
One of the biggest questions about Arizona playing away from McKale is, “which team is going to show up?” Despite the fact that ASU just simply doesn’t have the horses of years’ past, Arizona’s erratic performances on the road should not allow any rational fan to buy into the notion of a blowout in Tempe.
Also, remember that Romello White wasn’t fully healthy last time. He is much closer to 100 percent this go round and he is a very good rebounder which could prevent another -14 rebounding margin for ASU.
Plus, the Wildcats will be up against the “Curtain of Distraction” which provides an extra layer of home court advantage for the number one school in Innovation (whatever that means).
Ultimately this one should come down to the talent on each roster which benefits the Wildcats. It’ll probably be much closer than last time but the outcome will once again favor Arizona.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 72-67
Expect this one to be much closer than the last game. While Arizona absolutely smoked ASU in Tucson, I think Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils will be up to the challenge at home. Two things lead me to the conclusion that this will be tight throughout. First, winning games on the road, as we’ve seen throughout college basketball, is incredibly difficult. Second, you can be sure Bobby Hurley will fire his guys up after being so thoroughly embarrassed in Tucson.
The key for this game for Arizona is to once again get off to a great start. If the Cats show up from the beginning and silence the Desert Financial Arena crowd, they’ll be in a much better position to control the game. I’d like to see another positive game from Max Hazzard and some of the supporting cast too.
Ultimately, this will be a close affair, but Arizona’s talent will win the day.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 68-62
It makes sense to think that ASU will be better at home than they were in the shellacking they took in Tucson earlier this month — but I still see Arizona getting a win this weekend to sweep the season series.
Winning the rebounding battle is a huge key once again (obviously), but in my mind the biggest key for the Cats will be their ability to generate and knock down good, open shots.
This is an area that the UA struggled mightily in in their road losses to Baylor, Oregon and Oregon State and if they are to finally get over the hump away from McKale, Sean Miller’s team will need to show once and for all that they can actually shoot the ball effectively on the road.
If not, the Cats could be in trouble with Romello White available to play for the Sun Devils this time around.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 79-70
Arizona has struggled on the road this season, but this is a different kind of road game, so I think the Wildcats will be fine. The travel is minimal and the crowd will have large patches of red. Not to mention Nico Mannion and Josh Green are used to playing in the Phoenix-area.
Ideally, Arizona replicates what it did at home last weekend when it was rebounding well, making smart decisions in transition and defending at a pretty high level, thanks in part to a new schematic wrinkle.
ASU having a healthy Romello White could make a big difference against an Arizona team that has struggled to rebound at times, but I think the Wildcats turned the corner a bit in those wins over Utah and Colorado.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 72-60
As much as we would all love to see a repeat of what happened in Tucson, it’s tough to imagine Arizona blowing out ASU in Tempe.
That said, the Wildcats are an awful matchup for the Sun Devils.
In fact, ASU’s only chance in this game is by having someone like Rob Edwards get hot from three-point range, which is possible but unlikely given how Arizona can defend. Now that the Wildcats are apt to switch on defense, they could make it even tougher on the Sun Devils to get open looks.
In other words, barring a barrage of Wildcats turnovers or a Wisconsin-like performance from three by the Sun Devils, Arizona will leave Tempe Saturday with a season sweep of their in-state rival.