#3 Arizona State Sun Devils (12-0) at #17 Arizona Wild Cats (10-3)
We got back to our winning ways last night as I was on the Washington Huskies playing at USC. I took Washington plus 11 points knowing the game was going to be a tightly contested one, which it was. The one thing that I did not see coming, and I am going to guess not many people outside of Seattle did, was that Washington would march into L.A. and walk away with the victory.
It was a huge true road win for Washington, and if they can pick up another upset road victory on Sunday against UCLA, you can expect to see them ranked in the top twenty-five nationally. Today, I am breaking down another Pac-12 matchup, one that could very well decide the league’s champion, as Arizona State plays at Arizona.
The undefeated and number three ranked Arizona State Wildcats will take the short trip from Tempe to Tucson to play their arch-rivals, the Arizona Wildcats. This game features two of not just the best teams in the Pac-12, but two of the best teams in the country, as both teams have spent time ranked in the top three in the nation, already this season. The Wildcats come in having won every game on their schedule and are one of the highest scoring teams in the country.
Arizona, on the other hand, has rebounded from a bad preseason tournament performance in the Bahamas to win seven straight games entering play tonight. The Wildcats are -6.5-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 163 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
The Arizona Wildcats have the best 1-2 punch in the country. I know Duke and Wichita State fans might disagree, but I think Alonso Trier and DeAndre Ayton are the most talented duo in the country. They both are sure-fire NBA first rounders and Ayton could be a top-five pick. Trier is going for 21 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds a game, while Ayton is scoring 20 a night to go with his 11 rebounds. When both of these players can stay on the court, the Wildcats are very dangerous.
The Wildcats had a bad weekend in the Bahamas. One of the worst weekends ever for a team ranked number two in the country, the ranking the Cats held heading into the Battle for Atlantis tournament. Arizona struggled against average at best competition and ended up going 0-3 in the tournament. They fell all the way from number two to out of the rankings in one week, the furthest any team has ever fallen in just one week.
But since then, Arizona has looked a lot more like the team we thought they were coming into this season. They have huge wins over Texas A&M, Alabama, UCONN, and UNLV since the rough start in the Bahamas. The Cats find themselves ranked once again, and with this game signaling the start of conference play, are focused on winning their league.
Nobody saw the Arizona State Sun Devils coming this season. Most expected them to be improved but nobody, not even the most faithful of Sun Devil’s fans, saw them at 12-0, and number three in the country headed into this game. But here we are. Bobby Hurley has his team running and gunning, and I’m not sure there is a team in the country that can keep pace with them when this offense is clicking on all cylinders.
The Sun Devils are fourth in the country in scoring at 92 points a game. They can shoot the long ball, at almost 40% as a team, and they get to the line more than any team in the country, almost 30 times a game. They are constantly going to the rim, and they get lots of free throws because of it. Arizona State has a two-headed monster leading the point with Shannon Evans and Tra Holder both taking the point duties at times.
But it is Holder that really stands out. Holder is amongst the most complete players in all the land. The four years starting senior is having his best season yet, averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. He is exactly the type of player you want leading your team in March. Explosive, gets to the line a lot, shoots the long ball, and has all the experience in the world. If Arizona State makes a deep run in March, it will be behind the play of Tra Holder.
I’m not going to lie, when I saw this game on the schedule earlier in the week before the line came out, I thought to myself, I bet Arizona will be undervalued at home. A lot of the public is still lingering on that bad run they had in November and not focusing on the fact that if you take that weekend out of the equation, this might be the best team in the country. I figured Arizona State would be -2 or -3 on the road and I would back the undervalued home underdog.
Boy was I wrong! This number opened up at Arizona -5-points and has moved even further towards the home team. The current line stands at Arizona -6.5 and I can’t for the life of me figure out where all this Arizona State hate is coming from. This team is undefeated, they score at will against any team in the country and shoot absurd amounts of free throws. This isn’t a fluky team that jacks three-pointers and hopes they go in. This is a highly efficient, offensive machine that not a single team in the country has figured out yet.
Arizona State shouldn’t be getting 6.5 points against any team in the country, on any floor. They are just too good. I know this is a rivalry game, and sometimes you can throw records out with all the bad blood, but this line is point blank a bad one. The Wildcats went from being way undervalued two weeks ago to being way overvalued in this one. This should be an epic game, and I would be shocked if it doesn’t come down to the final few possessions. I have no choice but to jump on the other side of the public and back the road underdog Arizona State Sun Devils. Give me Arizona State plus 6.5 points!