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Preview: Arizona men's basketball seeking sweep of season series from ASU

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Deandre Ayton shows a barrage of emotion after picking up an and-one late in the UA-ASU game. Ayton had 23 points.

It wasn't that long ago when the ASU Sun Devils were staring at a possible No.1 ranking as they walked into McKale Center ready to face the Arizona men's basketball team. A month and a half later, it is the Wildcats looking to solidify their stance as first place holders in the Pac-12 as they walk into a hostile Wells Fargo Arena Thursday in Tempe.

The Sun Devils have dropped off considerably since that December matchup. Undefeated in the non-conference season at 12-0, the Sun Devils have taken some lumps and dropped six games while winning seven. However, the sixth place team in the conference is starting to resemble the fire starter it was earlier in the year, winning four of their last five including a sweep of the Los Angeles schools a week ago.

Tra Holder, Shannon Evans, Kodi Justice and Remy Martin are still as big a threat as they were the first time around. The biggest difference is the ability for ASU to get forward Romello White involved. White is averaging 11.8 points per game and leads the team in rebounding with 7.7 each contest.

"This time I'm sure they are very confident and they should be, but I thought the last time that we played them they were very confident," Arizona head coach Sean Miller said.

For Arizona, per the usual, it will depend on how intense their defensive awareness lies which may dictate the outcome of the game. Against the USC Trojans a week ago, the Wildcats were more engaged and aggressive, controlling the game on both ends from start to finish. The environment won't be so friendly this time around.

ASU has students lined up outside Wells Fargo in an effort to get a good seat for the last remaining game for both teams against a top-30 Rating Percentage Index team. Meaning, for both teams, a win could bolster its resume and provide better positioning in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

"ASU is going to be crazier," guard Rawle Alkins said. "I hope that we have more fans than ASU, that's how it was last year, but who knows this year they're playing great so they might have more people."

As of right now, Arizona is projected as a four seed in the West Region according to the initial release of the preliminary NCAA bracket. ASU is seeded as a six seed according to Jerry Palm, an NCAA bracketologist for CBS.

The game will be televised on ESPN at 7pm.


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