The battle for Arizona doesn’t mean much in basketball this season with both teams clinging to hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. Neither have had good seasons, but things are somewhat turning around for Arizona State as of late. It was on a three-Game winning streak before losing late at USC on Saturday. It’s been the opposite for Arizona, who was blown out at both USC and UCLA last week, and also lost at home to Oregon before that.
While the Sun Devils have been competent on both ends of the cOurt, the Wildcats have been bad, and that’s the main difference between these teams. Nothing is going right for Arizona, which has a 43.3% shooting percentage inside the arc in Conference play, a terrible rate. The biggest statistical outlier between these teams is that ASU is a solid offensive rebounding team, while that’s another issue for an Arizona defense that already doesn’t defend well.
With this Game being played in Tempe, all signs point to the Sun Devils. The question is whether Chase Jeter can play or not because Arizona has been much worse without him. But even when he was in the lineup, this team still lost 59-54 at home to Oregon. With Jeter, Arizona will at least have some size to go against the combo of Zylan Cheatham (11.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and Romello White. Cheatham has been a beast on the boards and is the main guy Jeter has to lock down. Otherwise, ASU has gotten fairly consistent production from everyone else with leading scorer LUguentz Dort (16.0 ppg) not needed to go off every Game in order for success. Remy Martin regularly scores in double digits, but he also has 26 assists in the last three Games, while Kimani LAwrence and Rob Edwards are usually good to drop around 10 points. ASU’s main problem has been shooting from outside, but since Arizona doesn’t defend well inside or outside, that may not matter.
The other problem for the Wildcats is getting consistent production from a roster that doesn’t have one regular shooter above 39% from deep. Brandon Randolph and Brandon Williams continue to chuck up shots and neither is above 33% from three, which is a clear issue. That lack of shooting could be an immediate problem against ASU if it runs more zone defense since the best way to break zones is often by good shooting. Either that or Jeter has to return to the lineup because he’s easily their best presence in the paint. For the Wildcats to have a chance, players other than Randolph and Williams need to step up, which hasn’t been an easy thing to count on. Jeter would be a boost, but point guard Justin Coleman and bigs like Ryan LUther, Dylan Smith and Ira Lee just haven’t been consistent. To win on the road, you need more production from your role players and that’s not something Arizona is getting.
The Sun Devils had a weird home stretch earlier in the season with back-to-back losses to Princeton and Utah, but they’ve mostly figured things out since then. The addition of Edwards into the starting lineup has been a big help since he’s been the team’s best three-point shooter at 41.4%. If Jeter plays, this should be a competitive Game, but ASU still gets the edge at home with a better, all-around lineup.
Our Pick – Arizona State by 12