Positive End Possible

The hoops team's regular season comes to an end on Saturday in Wells Fargo Arena against Arizona. No matter how the rest of the season went, beating the Wildcats is always a good thing. The Sun Devils have a chance to put a positive end to a somewhat disappointing season.

Winning the last game of the year, against your rival, in a situation in which you have no business coming out on top can do wonders for how a season is perceived. Just ask Mike Stoops. The Sun Devil basketball squad has this chance on Saturday.

I highly doubt that a win on Saturday will result in the euphoria that took place after the Cats win on the football field (the Berlin Wall coming down didn't create that kind of jubilation). Rob Evans has been at ASU for too long and has a track record that will temper any enthusiasm the win may bring. However, if Evans and the team want anyone at all to be on board when they put a positive spin on the season – having 19 wins, etc. – then they need to go out and win this game.

Otherwise, fans will look at the total of 18 wins and remember than 11 of them came during the out-of-conference schedule. They will look at another year not finishing in the top half of the conference, despite having the best player in the conference. And don't forget that the Devils weren't able to muster a win against a ranked opponent.

Of course, beating Arizona does not automatically void any of those criticisms. It does, however, add an important "but they beat Arizona" to the end of any conversations. Losing raises the dissenting voices to a new level and is a conversation I will save until after the season ends.

Will the Devils win on Saturday? Probably not. Evans has only beat Arizona once in seven seasons, falling in the other 13 meetings (including once in the Pac 10 Tournament). The ASU coaches have yet to come up with an effective counter to Lute Olson's schemes to double and triple Ike in the post and to pressure ball handlers on the perimeter as they attempt to set the offense.

Earlier this season, the Devils played tough down in Tucson but eventually the Wildcats' superior talent and athleticism allowed them to pull away. The game shows that ASU can stick around.

Furthermore, recent results show some hope. ASU and UofA lost to Washington by similar amounts and both went to the wire in Pullman – with the Cats winning in overtime and ASU losing on WSU's final shot of the game.

Those of us that have watched this rivalry for a while know better, though. Evans' teams have been bruised and beaten by Lute Olson in recent history. The Cats not only have the talent edge in these match ups, but they also have the mental edge. Unless ASU can pull out to a decent lead early, like they did in the 2002 win, you can pretty much count on them making enough mistakes to allow the Wildcats to pull away in the end.

Adding another interesting twist this week, Ike Diogu has been vocal in his support of battered and bruised Coach Rob Evans and senior point guard Jason Braxton. That is a very nice gesture on Ike's part and I completely understand why he did it; however, Diogu has been the lone steady force for ASU all season. If anyone should be showing support for someone else, it should be the other way round. Evans and Braxton need to show their support for Diogu this Saturday. Evans needs to coach his best game of the season and Braxton needs to lead his team to a surprising victory – something a quality senior point guard should do from time to time.

I want it to happen in the worst way. I just can't bring myself to believe. I'm tired of being thrown off the bandwagon by bumps in the road every time I hop on. It seems like I am quickly eating dust soon after climbing aboard.

I hope on Saturday that I am eating my words instead.

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