The Arizona Wildcats will seek their seventh consecutive victory on Saturday when they take on rival Arizona State in Tempe. The Sun Devils will be the first quality opponent the Wildcats have faced in two weeks since their hard-fought victory over Tennessee. The game is scheduled for a 2:00 PM EST tip-off at Desert Financial Arena and will be broadcast on FOX. Tommy Lloyd’s team enters the game as a (-6) favorite after opening at (-5.5), with the total currently set at 155 points.
Arizona State was well on their way to erasing one of the more surprising results of the college basketball season until December 21st. Bobby Hurley’s club dropped an early season game to Texas Southern that had some fans and prognosticators avoiding eye contact, but they responded with nine consecutive victories. However, while the streak had to end at some point, Hurley likely would have preferred it be against the Wildcats in this contest and not the Dons of San Francisco before Christmas break.
The Wildcats continue to look like a true national championship favorite as they dominate their competition on a nightly basis. Skeptical fans are pointing to the quality of their schedule as a reason to provide doubt however. Coach Lloyd’s club proved a lot with the victory over Tennessee when the Vols played the Wildcats tightly in Tucson. The loss to Utah in Arizona’s first true road game of the season feels like a distant memory at this point.
As with any in-state rivalry, this historic matchup goes back a long way. While Arizona is one of the great programs on the west coast, the series is a lot closer than one might anticipate. Saturday’s matchup will mark the 151st meeting in the series, with the Wildcats leading 86-64. While the all-time tally is close, Arizona has dominated the series lately, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings. The Sun Devils, however, have won two of the last four games played in Tempe. Last season, Arizona won both games in similar fashion, with one contest decided by 11 and the other by 12 points.
Arizona State Sun Devils Overview
Bobby Hurley enters Saturday’s contest with a deep and talented team whose confidence must be high despite the recent disappointment. San Francisco is a good team and their is certainly no shame in losing to the Dons, especially on their home floor but this matchup would have been so much more hyped had the Sun Devils been able to hold serve.
The Sun Devils continue to play without junior forward Marcus Bagley who has only appeared in the first two games of the season back in early November. Coach Hurley was asked about Bagley’s absence earlier this month to which he responded that Bagley has “stepped away from the team” but implied that Bagley had the programs support.
The Sun Devils deploy a well-balanced attack with four players averaging double figures in scoring, led by junior DJ Hornes, 12.5 per ballgame. The Illinois State transfer has been consistent over the Devils last four games, averaging 14 points per game though in an inefficient manner.
Frankie Collins, a 6’1 sophomore point guard, is having one of the most undervalued seasons in college basketball to date. The Michigan transfer is stockpiling counting statistics averaging 11.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per contest this season. The former top 50 recruits has nearly quadrupled his production from last season though his turnovers and shooting percentages could use some improvement.
As surprising as it may sound, Arizona State is currently the second-best team in the Pac-12 against the spread. Coach Hurley’s team is currently 8-5 against the number and is outperforming the anticipated margin by +2.2 points per contest. The total has gone over in each of their last three games.
Arizona Wildcats Overview
Right now, there are few teams in the nation more intriguing than this Arizona team. Tommy Lloyd’s club is simply a well-oiled machine on the offensive end of the court with their crisp passing, fast break opportunities, and traditional frontcourt play. The Wildcats are one of the few teams in the nation currently playing with two bigs on the floor together and are taking full advantage while pounding opponents on the glass. Arizona is currently +136 on the glass this season and +19 in blocked shots.
Azuolas Tubelis is the star that is getting the publicity, averaging 20 points and nearly nine rebounds per game, but it’s Oumar Ballo’s breakout season that makes this team dangerous. The seven-foot Mali native is averaging a robust 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds himself while blocking nearly two shots per contest. In Arizona’s most recent game against Morgan State, Ballo was nearly perfect, going 8-8 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line.
As talented and fun as Arizona is to watch, they are not particularly spectacular against the spread this season. The WIldcats rank towards the bottom of the Pac-12 with a record of 5-7-1 against the spread and basically performing even with the number on the season. Some large anticipated spreads could be the cause of this, as their margin of victory number is an impressive +16.5 points per ballgame.
Arizona vs Arizona State Prediction
At the end of the day, Arizona State just doesn’t have the offensive firepower to hang with this Wildcat’s club. The Sun Devils play decent enough defense which may allow for a close first half, but Arizona should open it up in the first eight minutes after the half. Wildcats cover the spread on the road.