The Pac-12 tournament continues into today, and one of the games will feature in-state rivals Arizona State and Arizona matching up. We’ll preview the critical showdown before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
Arizona State sits on the bubble right now for the NCAA tournament, so the importance of tonight’s game for them is astronomical. The Sun Devils finished conference play with a 13-9 record and picked up a huge 77-72 win over USC last night, in which they shot 44% from three and forced the Trojans to have 14 turnovers.
The Sun Devils have opposite strengths as their in-state rival, ranking 27th in defensive efficiency and 121st in offensive efficiency. At the same time, Arizona is 55th in defensive and 4th in offensive, according to KenPom. Desmond Cambridge Jr. has done everything in his power during the tournament to carry the Sun Devils' offense, as he is averaging 20 points per game over the past two games.
The two sides split the regular season series, with the Sun Devils winning the most recent matchup 89-88 in the Wildcats' home arena. Arizona’s defensive inconsistencies were on display that game, as they allowed the Sun Devils to shoot 54% from the field.
Arizona has been able to rely on their offense to get the job done for them a majority of the time when their defense falls short. The Wildcats rank 4th in shooting percentage and 3rd in effective field goal percentage, leading to them averaging 83.5 points per game this season.
The Wildcats have one of the most well-rounded offenses in the country, and that is made clear with them ranking 2nd in assists per game and 8th in rebounds per game. While their offense has remained consistent, their defense has not been able to this season. The Wildcats may hold opponents to the 35th-lowest shooting percentage in the country, but they rank 230th in average points allowed per game with 72.3.
Arizona State is currently listed as a +7.5 point underdog, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Sun Devils are 9-4 ATS when underdogs this season, while Arizona was 15-16 when favored. Arizona is also 0-4 ATS in their last four games following a win.
The Sun Devils have the defensive ability to stay in the game, as they rank 9th in opponent shooting percentage this season. In one of the matchups between the two teams this year, ASU managed to hold the Wildcats to a 38% field goal percentage while forcing them to turn it over 13 times.
Arizona State has proven they can handle running at the Wildcats' fast tempo this season, and with the way Desmond Cambridge Jr. has been scoring, I think he can keep the Sun Devils in the game. Two rivals playing in a meaningful game has me leaning towards the underdog fighting until the bitter end in this one.
Arizona State (+7.5)