Arizona State Basketball has been prepping for this game all season long.
The Sun Devils are looking to continue the good fortune that they experienced last March in Tempe when they beat a Wildcat team that had more conference wins than the Devils had total wins, 87-80.
The game is a rare sellout for Wells Fargo Arena and the crowd is going to be electric thanks to a 14-3 record and one of the best freshmen in Arizona State basketball history in Jahii Carson. Carson had back-to-back 20-point games in Oregon last week and is closing in on arguably two of the best players that ever worn an ASU hoops jersey in Ike Diogu and James Harden.
Diogu finished his freshman season with 12 20-point games and Harden with 16, but neither of them had back-to-back games in a conference road trip.
Let's take a closer look at the matchup.
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Jan. 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Watch: FOX Sports Net
Listen: 620-AM in the metro Phoenix area, 1290-AM in the Tucson area, Sirius 94/XM 193
This will be the 223rd meeting of the teams with Arizona holding a 142-80 lead. The 'Cats have won 62 times in Tempe while the Sun Devils have won 51. Recently, Arizona State has won seven of the last 11 meetings between the two but have only won six times in the last 20 years at home.
Head Coach Herb Sendek has a record of 7-6 against Arizona in his career at ASU. He is 3-3 at home, 3-3 in Tucson and 1-0 at a neutral site (Pac-10 Tournament.) Sendek is looking to make the No. 7 Wildcats the eighth ranked team that he has beaten while at Arizona State and the 37th in his career.
The Sun Devils are a much improved team with the addition of redshirt freshman phenom, Jahii Carson. Carson is fifth in the conference in scoring with 17.1 points per game and has played all 40 minutes in the past three games. Sendek also brought in a couple big men in 6'10" Eric Jacobsen and 6'8" Kenny Martin.
Jacobsen has seen minutes in all 16 games this season and is averaging 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Martin has seen limited time in nine games this season.The Sun Devils are playing a non-Herb Sendek style of game this year in which they are taking it to opponents and playing a much faster offense with Carson at the point.
The Wildcats have a big team up front and an even more impressive depth. The addition of the "Big Three" freshmen in 7'0" Kaleb Tarczewski, 6'10" Grant Jerrett and 6'8" Brandon Ashley will be tough to defend and could cause fits for the Sun Devils.
Tarczewski is the Wildcats only true center and has started all 16 games. Ashley has started 13 of the last 14 games and Jerrett started the first two games of the season before giving way to Ashley. The trio is basically interchangeable and average anywhere from 17-21 minutes per game.
Arizona State's Carrick Felix has been on fire in his senior season.
He is currently the only Pac-12 player in the top 10 of six different categories. An all-around stud that is No. 5 in field-goal percentage, No. 6 in steals, No. 8 in scoring and rebounds and No. 9 in three-point percentage and blocks. He has scored in double figures in every game this year and has five career double-doubles—all this year.
Chris Colvin and Ruslan Pateev have shown their leadership coming off the bench and have proven to be more than serviceable while giving the starters a much needed break. Colvin is averaging over 20 minutes per game and is a stellar defender with 48 defensive boards and 19 steals. Pateev is only averaging about seven minutes per game, but he makes sure that his playing time isn't wasted and goes hard at all times.
The senior class for the Wildcats is their nucleus. Point guard Mark Lyons and power forward Solomon Hill lead the team in scoring with 14.6 and 13.6 respectively. Swingman Kevin Parrom has only started one game this year yet still averages nearly 23 minutes per contest. He also ranks in the top four in five separate categories on the team.
Who Wins the Game?
This is going to be a hard fought battle in the trenches and under the boards. The Wildcats like to live by the three-pointer and they been living well. They lead the Pac-12 Conference with 38.6 percent on an average of 21 attempts per game. The Sun Devils take nearly 23 attempts per game on average yet are only hitting them 34 percent of the time.
The frontcourt of the Wildcats is daunting but the Sun Devils also lead the conference and are third in the country in blocked shots. Their 128 blocks on 1,044 opponents means that Arizona State blocks a shot on average every 8.1 shots—amazing.
This game means a lot to both teams and I don't mean simply for the in-state rivalry, but also for the conference standings. With three teams still undefeated in UCLA, Washington and Oregon, a second conference loss this early would be a difficult hole from which to climb out of.
The Wildcats will start off slow as usual and the Tempe crowd will make it as uncomfortable as possible for Miller's squad. They will turn on their afterburners and tie the game at the end of regulation. I am predicting an upset—in overtime.
Arizona 84, Arizona State 87