ARIZONA WILDCATS (23-1)
at ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (18-6)
Wells Fargo Arena - Tempe, AZ
Tip-off: Friday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Arizona -5.5
Arizona State is looking for a signature win as it hosts No. 2 Arizona on Friday night.
The Wildcats have won the past three games in this series by an average of 18.3 PPG, prevailing by at least 15 points in all three victories. On Jan. 16, Arizona rolled to a 91-68 rout in Tucson, improving its mark to 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) in the past seven meetings in this series. Seven Wildcats reached double figures in last month's matchup, including SG Nick Johnson, who led the way with 17 points. Arizona dominated the game in every facet, outshooting the Sun Devils 56% FG to 34% FG, outrebounding them 39-30 and forcing 18 ASU turnovers while committing only 11 miscues. Although one of those double-figure scorers that night, SF Brandon Ashley, is out for the season with an ankle injury, Arizona (14-9 ATS overall, 4-2 ATS on road, 5-6 ATS in Pac-12) has more than enough talent remaining on its roster. The biggest reason why the Wildcats have been so effective this season is because of their defense. Only two teams (Michigan and UCLA) have been able to score at least 70 points against them. In Arizona's past six games, it has given up just 58.2 PPG. That defense will be put to the test Friday though, as Arizona State PG Jahii Carson is one of the best point guards in the nation. In the first game between the two teams, Carson finished with a game-high 20 points and five assists. Arizona State (11-11 ATS, overall, 6-6 ATS at home, 4-7 ATS in Pac-12) is on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but has a great shot of getting the resume-defining victory against its in-state rival. Although Sean Miller is 18-5 ATS (78%) on the road versus good three-point shooting teams (37%+ threes) as the Arizona coach, he is also a miserable 9-26 ATS (26%) coming off a Pac-12 home win.
Can Arizona State pull off the upset on Friday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 58% ATS (202-144-11) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (170-110-6) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 65% ATS (45-24-2) in Best Bets for the season and 69% ATS (38-17-1) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 61% ATS (43-28-1) for the season and 67% ATS (26-13) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Scott is a strong 57% ATS (39-30-2) for the season and 58% ATS (29-21-2) since Dec. 2. StatFox Zach is a solid 55% ATS (37-30-4) on Best Bets this season, including 57% ATS (31-23-3) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Gary is 54% ATS (38-32-2) for the season, and 58% ATS (32-23) since Nov. 29.
Arizona averages a pedestrian 73.4 PPG, but makes 47.1% FG with 15.1 APG and 38.8 RPG, all of which rank among the top 55 teams in the nation. But the Wildcats thrive off their defense that allows just 57.0 PPG this season (3rd in nation) on 37.8% FG (7th in Div. I) and 30.2% threes. Sean Miller has the Wildcats playing terrific basketball, and has a star guard in SG Nick Johnson (15.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.6 APG). Johnson is a big-time athlete, but has developed a more complete game this season. He can score in many different ways, while also being one of the best defensive guards in the country. PF Aaron Gordon (11.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.6 APG) has been very good throughout his freshman season, snapping a three-game scoring funk (6.3 PPG on 8-of-29 FG) with 17 points on 8-of-12 FG in Sunday's 76-54 rout of Oregon State. With Johnson and Gordon, the Wildcats have two of the best finishers in all of the country. Teaming with these two on the fast break is PG T.J. McConnell (7.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.0 RPG), who helps make the Wildcats nearly unstoppable in the open court with a heady 2.9 Ast/TO ratio. C Kaleb Tarczewski (9.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 BPG) and PF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (8.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG) give Arizona a solid core of role players that help the Wildcats dominate the glass. This duo combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds and three blocks in last month's win over the Sun Devils.
Arizona State enters the game ranked 49th in the country in scoring (77.1 PPG) on a strong 46.5% FG and 39.4% threes. This is also a solid defensive team that gives up only 67.7 PPG on 40.6% FG (31.5% threes) and tallies 6.2 SPG (12th in nation). While PG Jahii Carson (19.0 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.3 RPG) is the leader of the Sun Devils, he has three teammates that can flat score the ball. SG Jermaine Marshall (15.6 PPG, 44% threes, 3.0 RPG) is a big-time scorer that can get hot from long range at any time. He did not play in last month's meeting, and will need to be a big factor on Friday for his team to pull off the upset win. The backcourt of Carson and Marshall gives the Sun Devils the opportunity to play with anybody, but C Jordan Bachynski (12.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG) is another difference maker for Arizona State. While he is productive on the offensive end of the court, coming off a 26-point night (7-of-8 FG and 12-of-14 FT) in Saturday's 74-72 win over Oregon, it is his defense that makes him one of the biggest low-post factors in the country. Bachynski swatted nine Ducks on Saturday and his 4.5 blocks lead the nation by nearly one block per game. With the way the Wildcats love to attack the rim, Bachynski will play a huge role in whether or not the Sun Devils can stay in this game. Although he had six rebounds and three blocks against Arizona last month, he was 0-for-3 from the floor and finished with only three points. SG Shaquielle McKissic (8.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.3 APG) is also coming off a big game in the Sun Devils' victory over Oregon, scoring 15 points on 5-of-7 FG with six boards. If McKissic can continue his strong play, that will open things up for Marshall and Carson. He scored 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting in the Jan. 16 loss in Tucson.