Arizona Wildcats (20-6) at Arizona State Sun Devils (19-6)
We picked up a nice easy win last night when we backed the Musketeers of Xavier at home against Seton Hall. The Musketeers came out red-hot and almost ran the Pirates off the court as they opened up a twenty-point first-half lead.
Give Seton Hall some credit, they battled back and got this game down to as close as six points late in the second half, before eventually bowing out, and losing by double digits, 102-90. I am no Seton Hall hater by any means, this is a talented team. They just aren’t on the same level as the top-level teams in the Big East and five points wasn’t nearly enough for me to back off fading them.
For Xavier, the season is on the line Saturday night when they host Villanova. If the Musketeers win, they will lock up the Big East regular-season title and baring a crazy finish in the Big East tournament, a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Today I will head out west for a spectacular matchup between the two best teams in the PAC 12, when the Arizona Wildcats play the Arizona State Sun Devils.
The Arizona Wildcats will take the short trip from Tucson to Tempe to face their arch-rivals, the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday night, looking for the season sweep. The Wildcats come in ranked #17 in the country but have hit a rough patch recently as they have dropped two out of their last three games. A win for the Wildcats would all but lock up the PAC 12 regular season title.
For Arizona State, they will look to stay hot and come into this game ranked as well, currently at #25. The Sun Devils have won three straight games. This game is an even pick ‘em. The game total over-under is set at 162 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Wells-Fargo Arena.
What a great game tonight in primetime on the West Coast! This is what PAC 12 basketball is all about, and while the Sun Devils won’t be able to make up for some early league play losses and win the regular season title, they can absolutely play spoiler tonight against their in-state rivals.
With a win, Arizona would basically walk away with the PAC 12 title as they hold a two-game lead over both UCLA and USC. Arizona State will be looking to avenge an earlier season 84-78 loss to the Wildcats. The big difference between that game and this one? That one was played in Tucson, they will get a chance to run it back on their home court tonight.
When Arizona State went into Tucson on December 30th, they were undefeated at 12-0 and ranked #3 in the country. They dropped a close game to the Wildcats, and it seemingly derailed their season. They proceeded to lose five out of their next nine games and went from being a Final Four candidate to a fringe top twenty-five team. It was like the Wildcats sucked all the mojo out of Bobby Hurley’s squad.
The Sun Devils appear to have gotten some of that swagger back recently as they have reeled off three straight wins.
That nice little run has gotten the Sun Devils back in the national rankings, and they are ready to put a big bow on this stretch by beating a very good Arizona team tonight on their home floor. Recent wins over USC and UCLA have shown the rest of the league that Arizona State is back.
When the season started all the talk in Arizona was about Alonso Trier coming back to school, and while Trier has had a very solid season, averaging almost twenty points a game, all that talk has shifted. The real star in Arizona this year is none other than freshman big man Deandre Ayton.
Ayton seemingly does whatever he wants on the court, anytime that he wants. The 7’1”260-pound big man can’t be stopped when he wants to get to the rim and is an elite paint protector as well. It is probably basketball sacrilege to stay it, but this guy reminds me of a young Shaquille O’Neil.
He is a giant with unlimited potential on both sides of the court and is a lock to go high in the lottery in next year’s NBA draft. He is an absolute nightmare of a matchup at the college level, and if Arizona State wants to beat Arizona, they are going to have to slow him down as much as possible. The last time these two teams matched up Ayton went for 23 points, 19 rebounds and 3 blocks. If he does that again, the Wildcats will win going away.
This line opened at Arizona -1 on the road and the sharps quickly jumped on it and pushed it to an even pick ‘em, where it now sits. The sharps are always going to take the home underdogs in close matchups, so that line move was expected. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this number move towards Arizona State again. I could see this closing out at Arizona State -1 or even -2.
To me, this game comes down to momentum. The Wildcats are sputtering towards the finish line and have lost recent games to Washington and UCLA. And if Arizona has had one soft spot in their resume its been road games in league play as they lost to overmatched Washington and Colorado on the road.
Whereas the Wildcats are stumbling a bit, Arizona State just played the second and third best teams in the league and walked away winners both times. They would love to complete the sweep of the top three in the league and really put themselves back on the national map.
I am sticking with the home team tonight. I think Arizona State is playing better at the moment and will get its revenge tonight at home. They need to figure out a way to deal with Deandre Ayton, if the big guy goes wild on them again they aren’t going to be able to win. But head coach Bobby Hurley has had two months to think up a game plan to slow him down, so I think they should be ok.
Give me the Arizona State Sun Devils tonight at an even pick ‘em at home.