It may not have all the trappings of a rivalry game. Arizona and Arizona State women’s basketball will tip off their Pac-12 season on Sunday when students have already left following the semester’s end. It’s still important for both squads to get a jump on what’s set up to be a difficult conference season.
Both teams will come into the game at 7-3, but they got here in very different ways. The Wildcats have dropped all three of their games to teams that have been ranked at some point this season, including a 13-point loss to No. 5 Texas in their last outing. As far as the NET, the teams they’ve lost to have an average ranking of 25. Texas sits at No. 4, UNLV at No. 9, and Ole Miss at No. 62.
The Sun Devils have also faced Texas—in a 42-point loss—but it’s the only high-major or ranked team they have played. They are coming off a loss, in this case to Grand Canyon, and have an early loss to Grambling. The teams the Sun Devils have lost to are currently at No. 4 (Texas), No. 105 (GCU), and No. 235 (Grambling) for an average NET of 115.
The problem for both teams is that they don’t have any impressive wins to hang their hats on. According to NET, the best win by either team is ASU’s win over South Florida, which is at 129. Arizona’s best win is Memphis, which currently sits at No. 153.
Other rating systems like both South Florida and Memphis quite a bit more than the NET does, though. Massey has Memphis at 107 and USF at 75. Her Hoop Stats agrees with Massey, putting USF at 83 and Memphis at 109.
The rivals have other things in common besides the NET looking less kindly on their biggest wins. Both were dealt blows before the season started when players who were meant to have big roles were injured. For Arizona, it was freshman Montaya Dew, who came to Tucson a semester early to be ready for this season.
For ASU, it was an even bigger blow. Last year’s leading scorer, Tyi Skinner, was also ruled out before the season. Skinner was good for at least 20 points in 15 different games last season, including against some of the best teams in the Pac-12. She averaged 19.3 points per game, the best by a Sun Devil since 1988-89.
The Sun Devils have had a revolving lineup this year. Only two players have started every game. Seniors Maggie Besselink and Jaddan Simmons have been the anchors for ASU in their 10 games this season, while Jalyn Brown, Trayanna Crisp, Kadidia Toure, Treasure Hunt, Journey Thompson, and Sandra Magolico have all gotten starts, as well.
While Arizona hasn’t used as many different starters, it has a short bench. After Maya Nnaji decided to focus on her academics and step away from basketball, the Wildcats are down to nine available players again. While benches tend to shorten as teams head into conference play, fouls on the starters have been one of the team’s challenges going into conference play.
Freshman center Breya Cunningham picked up two fouls in 36 seconds against Texas and has dealt with foul trouble in many of Arizona’s games. Isis Beh has had ongoing issues with fouls this season. Esmery Martinez can also fall into the habit of being too aggressive on defense. The pattern of offensive fouls, especially on the Arizona bigs setting screens, doesn’t help matters.
ASU has yet to beat anyone in the top 100 of the NET and Arizona has not lost to anyone outside the top 65, but the Wildcats will have to be on their toes. They are in enough flux as a team that attention to detail is required. With ASU projected to finish last in the Pac-12 this season, Arizona cannot afford to get off on the wrong foot in conference play. Getting wins in a loaded Pac-12 will be difficult enough.
Arizona Wildcats (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12) @ Arizona State Sun Devils (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12)
When: Sunday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. MST
Where: Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 Arizona
Radio: Listen on the web
Stats: ASU Live Stats
Probabilities/Odds: Both Massey and Her Hoop Stats favor the Wildcats in their win probabilities. Massey gives UA a 69 percent win probability as the visiting team while HHS gives the ‘Cats a 77.5 percent win probability in Tempe. Massey’s most likely score is 70-63 in Arizona’s favor. HHS projects a point total of 133.8 with Arizona being an 8.9-point favorite.