Arizona Preview

It's safe to say that for the Sun Devils there aren't many high expectations going into this contest in Tucson Saturday afternoon. Whatever happens in this rivalry game, it's the last day of a treacherous 2011 for Arizona State athletics and the new year with a clean slate is just a day away.

The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-8) march down to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats (9-4) in the Pac-12 opener for both squads. If the non-conference results for these teams are to tell us anything, it is that these rival programs are heading down different paths this season. Arizona battled with the likes of Florida, Gonzaga and Mississippi State and took tough losses while Arizona State lost at home to Pepperdine, NAU, Southern Miss and Fresno State.

Head Coach: Sean Miller (55-27 at UA, 175-74 Overall) vs. Herb Sendek (92-82, 346-239)

Projected Lineups

G – Kyle Fogg (12.1 PPG, 46% 3PT) vs. Chris Colvin (5.7 PPG, 3.3 APG)

G – Jordin Mayes (7.0 PPG, 38% 3PT) vs. Keala King (14.2 PPG, 3.3 APG)

G – Nick Johnson (10.1 PPG, 2.8 APG) vs. Trent Lockett (13.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG)

F – Solomon Hill (12.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG) vs. Carrick Felix (10.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

F – Jesse Perry (11.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG) vs. Kyle Cain (9.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

Backcourt

Arizona is deep on guards and spreads the floor with a lot of shooters and playmakers alike. Fogg is the glue that keeps everything together. He shoots the ball well and has a high basketball IQ that makes life a little easier for Coach Miller. Mayes is another solid contributor who does a lot of things well but nothing great. Johnson, a Gilbert native, is really starting to impress and will only improve as the season goes on. Off the bench is a former ASU commit, Josiah Turner who can run the point and the sharp-shooting Mountain View grad, Brendan Lavender.

The Sun Devils run a guard-heavy offense but despite that, the PG position is still a headache. Obviously, Jahii Carson should be here and these problems shouldn't be problems at all but that's just not how the cookie is crumbling for Arizona State these days so Chris Colvin and Keala King split time running the point even though Colvin would be best suited as a backup and King would be best suited playing off the ball.

Trent Lockett is ASU's most steady player and is one of the more physical guards in the Pac-12, if not the country. While he's listed as a forward up on the lineups, Carrick Felix is a dynamic slasher who has really improved his outside game – while he has been a nice surprise given his improvement, you still feel like Felix still has something else in the tank and can take his game to even greater heights. Coming off the bench will be Chanse Creekmur and Johnathan Gilling – two great shooters that might actually be allergic to two-point shots. Either way, if either of these guys can get hot – that's ASU's best chance to make a run.

Edge - Arizona

Frontcourt

This would be a sick joke if Derrick Williams had stayed in school but luckily he is freezing in Minnesota and can't torment the Pac-12 anymore. Even with his departure, the Wildcats have steady play down low. Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry are both great rebounders with soft touch around the basket. One of Arizona's biggest strengths is their interior depth with Kevin Parrom, Kyryl Natyazkho and Angelo Chol all providing very solid relief of the starters.

It's not as fun for ASU as Kyle Cain is the primary big man to go along with Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski. Cain is a solid force in the middle but would be more dangerous if he didn't have to go to war with the biggest guy on the other team every night out. He's just not built for that and it showed last season when his production dipped dramatically in the second half of the year. Cain put on some muscle and is much improved in all aspects but Pateev or Bachynski need to step in a huge way to make life easier for not just Kyle Cain but for Herb Sendek and the hopes of this season. Between Pateev and Bachynski, there is over 14 feet of real estate yet they average a combined 6.6ppg and 5.5rpg – that is inexcusable.

Edge – Arizona

How ASU wins

Arizona fails to show up? All kidding aside, the Sun Devils need to play a sound 40 minutes of basketball. The reason these guys have lost more games than they have won is because they turn the ball over all too often and they don't shoot the ball very well. It really sounds too simple but that's really all it is. The Devils can pull off the upset if they move without the ball, keep possession and knock down open shots. Easier said than done? Obviously, but it has happened before. That being said, a road game against your rival in a hostile environment with a team lacking in confidence isn't the best recipe for success.

Final Score: Arizona 72 Arizona State 58


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