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Arizona

vs.

Arizona State

College Basketball

Pick

2/15/18

Arizona may lead the Pac-12 standings by two games, but recent play suggests the regular season title isn’t won just yet. Arizona State is a long way off, but has seemingly figured things out in recent games having won three straight. That said, nothing is coming easy for the Sun Devils, even in wins.

There’s been a problem with Arizona for most of the season and that came to light again in recent losses to Washington and UCLA. Defense is a major issue for the Wildcats and three straight road games will only highlight that even more.

It was over a month ago when these teams first met and that seems like ages ago. At the time, Arizona State was undefeated and one of the top ranked teams in the country. The Sun Devils competed in that game, but only one guy really did anything as Tra Holder went for 31 points in a losing 84-78 effort. Arizona’s big names were the main difference with Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton both going for 23 points, while Ayton added another 19 rebounds. They’ll likely take the same path in this one and there’s no reason to believe ASU can stop those guys, even at home.

Arizona State is better at home (beating USC and UCLA most recently), but not by much, made evident by losses to Oregon and Utah. Its main task will be figuring out a way to stop Ayton because this is more of a run-and-gun team that doesn’t have a lot of size. Ayton has a few inches on anyone that will be guarding him from Romello White to De’Quon Lake. The same is the case for Trier and Rawle Alkins because the Sun Devils have a small backcourt composed of Shannon Evans and Tra Holder.

The best route to winning for ASU is by hitting shots, which it didn’t do in that first game (8-of-25 from deep). The problem is that it doesn’t rank highly in field goal percentage and it’s hard to think that will change suddenly. The Sun Devils have no one on the team that shoots better than 40 percent from range even though Holder, Evans and Kodi Justice have all taken at least 144 three pointers. If they aren’t hitting shots, they’ll need to be in full attack mode, although Holder did that last game and it still wasn’t enough.

For Arizona, it will go with its bread and butter and use Ayton and fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic as much as possible. When those guys get more attention and especially if ASU uses zone, that will only open up looks for Trier and Parker Jackson-Cartwright. If Ayton can’t get going, it will be Rustic’s turn. If neither of them can get going, it will be up to Trier and Alkins to create.

While the Wildcats are on the road, this is a great matchup for them because ASU plays small ball and their bigs can’t spread the floor on the offensive end. That allows Arizona to stick with Ayton and Rustic, which can in turn dominate offensively. More so, Trier and Alkins have size in the backcourt, while Jackson-Cartwright has the quickness to deal with ASU’s shifty guards. The Sun Devils are playing well, but will need to have a great shooting game to win this rematch.

our pick - Arizona St +1.5

 

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