Utah Preview

With the window of opportunity starting to slowly close, the Arizona State Sun Devils (13-5, 2-3) need to protect home court and win games against the non-elite Pac-12 teams like the Utah Utes (14-4, 3-3) and that contest takes place 7 PM on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Since Utah joined the Pac-12 two years ago, the former Mountain West juggernaut has been left licking their wounds against the big kids but the basketball squad has shot ahead of its football counterparts as it has made unexpected waves throughout the season so far with wins over UCLA and BYU as well as two 70+ point wins over lower level opponents. After a sweep of the LA schools, the Utes are looking for more.

The Sun Devils are coming off a full week of rest after just one game last week when they traveled to Tucson to take on the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats and that went as well a tire fire. The Cats jumped out to a huge lead and never considered looking back on their way to a 91-68 victory. No one plays well when you lose to your rival by 23 points but Bo Barnes had 13 points as one of three Devils in double figures.

If you want some confusion – ASU has lost three Pac-12 games by an average of 16.3 points per game while winning their two Pac-12 games by an average of 19 points per game. Kill or be killed – resident member of the middle class. With Utah and a Spencer Dinwiddie-less Colorado visiting this weekend, ASU has a chance to hop back over.500 in Pac-12 play and march toward the dance.

Head Coach:

Larry Krystkowiak: 3rd season at Utah – 35-47; 77-67 career

Herb Sendek: 8th season at ASU – 132-113; 386-291 career

Projected Starters:

G – Delon Wright (15.7 PPG, 5.2 APG) vs. Jahii Carson (18.2 PPG, 4.7 APG)

G – Dakarai Tucker (8.0 PPG, 35% 3PT) vs. Jermaine Marshall (15.6 PPG, 46% 3PT)

F – Brandon Taylor (10.6 PPG, 36% 3PT) vs. Shaq McKissic (8.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG)

F – Jordan Loveridge (16.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG) vs. Jon Gilling (6.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG)

C – Jeremy Olsen (5.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG) vs. Jordan Bachynski (12.2 PPG, 4.9 BPG)

Why Utah Can Win:

Quite possibly the most underrated duo in the Pac-12, if not the country, Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright combine to average over 32 points per game for the Utes while also leading the team in rebounds and assists. As a team, Utah shoots over 51% from the field and over 75% from the free throw line. This team is efficient and can wear a team down on both ends. The Sun Devils lost big to the same UCLA team that Utah just beat and these guys aren't going to back down to anyone at this point.

Why ASU Can Win:

Coming back home and playing with a sense of urgency should suit the Sun Devils well as they perform better at home and Utah's perimeter defense can be exposed if ASU can consistently shoot the rock. The Devils have a distinct size advantage and will look to get Bachynski involved early and often. Jahii is another key factor but that goes without saying. Of the Gilling, Koulechov, and Kearney trio – one needs to separate themselves from the pack. All three will be relied on heavily next season but someone to needs to get hot now.

Key Stat: From ASU SID Doug Tammaro, Jordan Bachynski not only leads the nation with 81 blocks, he also has more than 258 teams in D-1!

X-Factor: Urgency. With just 7 home games left and 13 regular season contests left on the schedule, the Devils need to win 9 more games to ensure a ticket to the big party in March and that cannot happen without wins at home against teams like Utah and Colorado.

Final Score: ASU 72 Utah 64


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