Upon their return, the Sun Devils will be playing host to the Utah Utes (5-18, 2-9) who are making their first Pac-12 trip to the Grand Canyon State. Now, Utah is pretty bad – so bad in fact that they have lost 15 games by 11+ points. BUT DO NOT FORGET that these are the same Utes that rudely walloped your Sun Devils by 21 points in Salt Lake just a few short weeks ago.
F – Jason Washburn (10.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
If you thought losing Keala King was frustrating, Utah lost their starting PG Josh Watkins to similar disciplinary problems and he was an even bigger focal point to the team than King was for ASU. That's when a bad season got catastrophic for Krystkowiak and the Utes. Kareem Storey runs the show at the point now with Hines and Martin to his left and right. The guy to watch here is Cedric Martin – he's a guy who takes a lot shots and can hurt you when hot. Kyle Perkins and Anthony Odunsi are the key guard contributors on the depth chart.
Just because ASU loses a lot doesn't mean nothing good happens but I can see why you think that sometimes. In the recent weeks, Chris Colvin has picked up his play and has found more confidence on the offensive end both with ball-handling but also with his scoring. He is not a score-first kind of player but he will absolutely knock down some shots if the defense sags on him. Next to him is Carrick Felix but the excitement with Felix is that you just never know which Carrick Felix you are going to get. He might score 25 points and look like an All-American or he might shoot his way onto the bench.
Lastly, the (hopefully) triumphant return of Trent Lockett is the headliner of Thursday's game. Lockett has missed a few weeks but it feels like a few years because of how badly this team missed him. With his return to the starting lineup, Chanse Creekmur will come off the bench while he continues to look for his shot that keeps going missing.
Edge – Arizona State
Utah has a keeper in Jason Washburn; the guy is a legitimate big man that Utah is lucky to have. Without Washburn, you have to think that the Utes would be at just one or two wins on the season – he's that solid. He has great touch around the bucket and rebounds well on both ends. Starting down low with him is Dijon Farr, a smaller sized forward that is most effective when spreading his game out along the perimeter as well as down in the post. Javon Dawson and George Matthews are your forward reserves.
The starting center position has been a tough one to lock down this season for the Devils as Ruslan Pateev and Kyle Cain just refused to take ownership of the role which allowed Jordan Bachynski to start capitalizing on the opportunities presented to him in the last two weeks of play which has given Herb Sendek all the more reason to keep pushing him out there and seeing what happens. With the Big Canuck (it will catch on) in the starting spot, Cain and Pateev split time off the bench and possibly even joining Bachynski on the floor when the team goes a little bigger.
Forward Jonathan Gilling didn't practice the last couple of days as he nurses a thumb injury and even if he did play this solid newcomer is likely to be less effective than usual.
Edge – Arizona State
How ASU Wins
In seasons like this one, there really are some hidden benefits. Like a bad baseball team playing out the end of the season in September, this is a time where you can get away with tinkering the lineup and rotation or implementing some more risky offensive schemes. This is the time. If you can't do it now, what's the point of being a bad team?
With that being said, this is a time where the offense could and should start letting loose. Start pushing the ball up the floor. If the philosophy stays the same, the team that just got blasted by 47 combined points in two games in northern California will be the same. That is unacceptable.
I am taking a chance here by saying that Herb Sendek and his staff have realized that the recipe needs some fixing and these last weeks of a forgettable season can really provide optimism leading into a brighter 2012-13 season. I think the Devils explode against Utah and win big. Keep an eye on Felix – he's going to have a big night.
Final Score – Arizona State 75 Utah 63