Arizona had dominated this series, winning six straight before being swept by the Sun Devils last season. KenPom gives UA an 86 percent chance of winning Saturday, while oddsmakers deemed the Wildcats to be 10.5-point favorites.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network. Head to our basketball section for tons of coverage.
Here are our score predictions.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 75-64
ASU is going to try to play uptempo against Arizona, and if the Wildcats are to avoid a third straight loss to their in state rivals they are going to have to control the pace of the game and avoid the quick, ill-advised shots that Sean Miller has identified as the team’s biggest offensive weakness.
After a longer than usual break between their non-conference and conference slates, I suspect the UA will be able to do just that in their Pac-12 opener and ride what will surely be a ruckus crowd to a 10+ point victory.
Oh yeah, I also expect Nico Mannion to have a big scoring game against his home town school and to bounce back in a major way after some rough offensive outings.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 79-72
Two weeks off will either end up being considered a godsend for Arizona or look like another thing working against this ultra-talented team, depending on what happens against ASU. Good thing the Sun Devils come in just as discombobulated, still trying to find their offensive identity after being so strong on that side of the ball the last few seasons.
Arizona is expected to be back to 10-strong with Stone Gettings returning from a concussion, and his presence should make a difference simply because it allows for more lineups than before. ASU’s defense is much-improved, but the emotions of this game are going to make offensive efficiency be what decides the outcome.
If two weeks aren’t enough to fix what was ailing the Wildcats, nothing will.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 71-64
With the long layoff finally over, Arizona comes home to face ASU in what should be an entertaining affair. Arizona must start well. In Arizona’s three losses this year, the team started cold, only to come back and fall just short. Getting going early, especially getting some Nico Mannion shots to fall, will be crucial.
It will be a huge help to have Stone back. Anytime you can add someone who can stretch the floor like he can, that’s going to help your offensive efficiency.
ASU is a weaker team than last year or the year prior, but they still pose a threat. Remy Martin seems to play some of his best games against the Cats. Ultimately, Arizona will prevail by 7 due to home court advantage and a better start.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 81-72
Arizona is better equipped to handle slashers like Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. this year, and ASU is barely shooting 30 percent from 3, so I have a hard time believing the Sun Devils will have enough offense to escape McKale with a win.
However, Arizona can help them out by committing turnovers, failing to secure defensive rebounds, and putting them at the free-throw line. All three of those have been big problems at times, so those are my keys to the game, though obviously the Wildcats need to start hitting shots again as well.
It is unclear if ASU center Romello White will play because of an ankle injury, and it will be big break for the Wildcats if the double-double machine is unable to give it a go.