Arizona State Basketball is officially on the national radar Thursday evening.
The Sun Devils (13-4, 2-2 Pac-12) travel to Tucson to take on the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats (17-0, 4-0 Pac-12) for a 9 p.m. ET tipoff to be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
The rivalry game comes hot on the heels of the "Territorial Cup" football game between the two teams last November. The Sun Devils handed the Wildcats a 58-21 whooping and the 'Cats are looking to return the favor tonight in front of their fans in McKale Center.
- Tip: 9:07 p.m. ET, January 17, 2013
- Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
- Television: Fox Sports 1
- Commentators: Gus Johnson/Bill Raftery
- Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Phoenix) K-HIT 107.5 FM (Tucson)
- Line: Arizona by 14
The Sun Devils are 4-3 on the road this season and are 1-1 against ranked teams. The Sun Devils have beaten a No. 1 team only once in school history and it was on the road in Corvallis on March 7, 1981 against the Oregon State Beavers. The No. 5 Devils were led by future NBA players Byron Scott and Fat Lever and coached by the legendary Ned Wulk.
The two times prior to that game and the five times after, Arizona State has lost to the top team in the country—and the games were not even close. The Sun Devils have met the Wildcats as the No. 1 team three times prior to Thursday's game and have lost by an average of 23 points.
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek is 7-8 against Arizona and 3-4 in Tucson. Arizona leads the series 144-80 and has won 30 of the past 38 matchups but Arizona State has won seven of the past 13 including a five-game stretch in 2008-2009. Prior to that streak, Arizona had won 24 of the last 25 and currently owns a two-game win streak over Arizona State.
The good news for Sendek's Devils is that he has Jahii Carson, and Carson plays extremely well on the road. Carson averages 21.3 points per game in road games and his four highest scoring games were on the road including a 40-point effort against UNLV earlier this year.
Senior Jordan Bachynski also leads all Division I players with 78 blocks this season and 4.59 per game. Out of 351 teams, Bachynski alone has more blocks than 274 of them.
The bad news is the Wildcats are seemingly unstoppable.
Coach Miller's Wildcats were met with adversity vs. Duke in Madison Square Garden and at Michigan—but prevailed in the end each time. In the past two weeks, they have held an opponent to 25 points and beat UCLA in vaunted Pauley Pavilion.
Everybody knows about Arizona's freshman phenom Aaron Gordon, but Coach Miller is looking for a strong team effort over individual performances—and he is getting it.
Nick Johnson is the leading scorer averaging 16.3 points per game with Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski close behind. Point guard T.J. McConnell is third in the Pac-12 in assists averaging 6.2 per game. He is also third in the conference in steals with 1.9 per game. That makes him a modern day Robin Hood by stealing and in turn giving it away.
McKale Center is also a very tough place to win, especially if you're Arizona State.
Under Coach Miller, the Wildcats are 67-11 at home and 31-7 in conference play. They have won 14 straight at home and will face their first ranked team next week when No. 21 Colorado comes to visit.
This game could get ugly fast for the Sun Devils, but I expect it to be a lot closer than people think.
Prediction: Arizona State 72, Arizona 84