Enter UCLA (15-12, 8-6), a team that has performed well under expectations and Ben Howland is firmly entrenched on the hot seat in Westwood.
Each of these teams are coming off losses and a little momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tournament would be nice for both squads. In the first meeting between these two, the Devils raced out to a 24-14 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game only be outscored 55-19 over the final 30 minutes of the game. That was more miserable than watching Davonte Neal not show up to his own press conference.
Five Things to Know About UCLA:
1 – Reeves Nelson's departure was the right move; listen, UCLA isn't going to the Tournament unless they win the Pac-12 Tournament and Nelson, on talent alone, was probably the best player on the team but like ASU did with King and Utah did with Josh Watkins, sometimes dismissing the best player brings out the best in your team. The Bruins are not as good as many thought they would be but they are playing hard and will be a tough outcome Pac-12 Tourney time.
2 – JUCO Point Guards are not all that; Zeke Jones was a major get for Ben Howland - a 5-star JUCO recruit that was supposed to come in and cure the offensive woes and lead UCLA back to the Promised Land. Not the case. Jones leads the team in scoring and assists for that matter but UCLA is 15-12 and has only won 8 of their 14 games in a bad conference. An elite PG would elevate his team to the top of the standings. JUCO recruits can build up a good amount of hype but as we've seen in Tempe with Brandon Dunson and now Chris Colvin, they are probably in Junior College for a reason and the expectations should be a little tempered.
3 – Twins are creepy; David and Travis Wear are more than identical twins. Their stats are nearly identical as well. Minutes: 27 per game for David, 26 for Travis. Points: 11 per game for Travis, 10 for David. Rebounds: 6 per game apiece. Nutty.
4 – Depth is not a strong suit; the Bruins run a 6-man rotation for the most part with different reserves getting additional minutes here and there depending on matchups. This is an area where ASU can exploit the Bruins. Get their bigs in trouble and trouble will follow them. With Josh Smith hunkering down in the paint, he is an immovable object but can be prone to getting whistled for being too physical. If the Devils feed the post and get in the bonus, they will cause UCLA to get a little bit out of their element.
5 – UCLA hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road this year; if ASU was ranked, UCLA would be in trouble.
How ASU Wins:
It won't be easy and it has nothing to do with the opponents. In recent weeks, the Sun Devils just don't look like they care. It's a lethal combination of a team without the talent to succeed and the look of a team that is just going through the motions waiting for this merciless season to conclude. Then again, we don't know what was said at practice or what could be motivating these guys – the Devils could come out feeling saucy and take down the once mighty and now average Bruins.
Sorry, got off the rails there – how does ASU pull out the victory?
Easy, by limiting the turnovers and hitting threes. This offense is buttery smooth when the ball is moving and shooters are knocking down open looks.
Final Score – UCLA 68 ASU 58