Staff predictions for Arizona men's basketball vs. ASU
Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley argues with an official in McKale Center on January 12. The Sun Devils fell to the Wildcats 91-75.
Arizona and ASU renew their basketball rivalry Thursday night in Tempe. The Wildcats (14-7, 5-3) travel north looking to snap a two-game losing streak that saw them get defeated by more than 20 points in consecutive games, while the Sun Devils (14-6, 5-3) are coming off a road loss to USC but have won three of their last four games. Even though the Wildcats have knocked off the Sun Devils the last six consecutive meetings, our basketball reporters think that streak comes to an end this time.
Coming off one of the worst couple of weeks in the Sean Miller era, Arizona has to rebound against its in-state rivals, who went 1-1 in their LA road trip, losing to USC by just two points and beating UCLA by 11. Winning this game is simply no easy task for the Wildcats, especially with Chase Jeter likely limited or out completely.
If Miller and his motley crew can somehow go into Tempe and escape with a win, it would be up there as one of the most impressive wins in the last couple of years, due to the magnitude and the stakes that hang over this matchup. If Arizona wins, its NCAA Tournament hopes are put back on life support. If Arizona loses, then everyone in McKale Center should start preparing for the NIT or the CBI.
ASU has a better team right now. I don't know how many Arizona players would start on ASU – maybe Brandon Williams, and that's being generous. I personally don't think it's going to be close, and I think this is the perfect storm for Bobby Hurley to notch his first win against Miller and Arizona. Wells Fargo Arena is going to be packed, and I think ASU is going to come out guns ablaze and put the final nail in the coffin of the Wildcats' season. This one is going to be ugly.
Prediction: ASU wins 95-72.
The famous Rocky Balboa saying goes, "It ain't about how hard you hit, it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." Well, USC and UCLA landed two big blows to the face, and now ASU is going for the knockout punch.
This matchup couldn’t come at a worse time for Arizona. A team that missed 96 shots over the span of the last two games, and has confidence issues, going into what will be a hostile environment in Tempe, isn’t a recipe for success. Plus, Jeter will either sit out or be very limited, meaning UA’s depth will be tested once again. And I don’t have faith right now that there’s a player who has the mentality to take over a game for the Wildcats.
I also don’t think there’s a player on Arizona’s roster who is capable of guarding Luguentz Dort, the team’s leading scorer at 16 points per game. Without Jeter, rebounding has been an issue for Arizona, and the Sun Devils have Zylan Cheatham, who has 34 over his last two games.
All the signs point to an ASU blowout win. However, given the nature of the rivalry the last few years, I think it it’s going to be closer than people expect. With that said, Hurley will get his first win against Arizona.
Prediction: ASU wins 70-64.
Arizona is reeling after its hot start in conference play and picking the worst time to have a meltdown. After this game, the ‘Cats return to McKale to take on the Washington Huskies, who are undefeated in conference and maybe the only Pac-12 team safely in the NCAA Tournament field so far.
ASU, on the other hand, is looking to avoid back-to-back meltdowns in conference play. The Sun Devils were ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation last season after defeating future No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas, but they went 8-10 in conference before losing in the first round to Syracuse. ASU once again was ranked this season after another victory against Kansas, but has now lost three conference games to put themselves firmly on the bubble.
The Sun Devils have the depth and playmakers this season to compete with anyone in the country in my opinion, something that doesn’t hold true for the UA. If Jeter isn’t able to play, Arizona will once again have to lean on Ryan Luther, Ira Lee and Dylan Smith to guard bigger players, something they struggled with this past weekend in Southern California.
ASU has seven players 6-foot-7 or above who could see action and can very easily wear down the thin UA frontline or draw fouls, forcing Miller to experiment with different lineups. Hurley has completely turned the culture around in Tempe, drawing attention to the basketball program it hadn’t seen since the days of James Harden. ASU has the depth and firepower Arizona is lacking this season, and that will be too much to overcome for an Arizona team that is looking more and more like an NIT team as the season moves forward.
Prediction: ASU wins 76-63.
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