Arizona Preview

The Arizona State Sun Devils (7-19, 1-13) are coming off their first Pac-10 win of the season and their first win since December 21, 2006 after beating USC 68-58 at Wells Fargo Arena last Sunday. The Arizona Wildcats (17-9, 8-7) have struggled mightily by their standards and find themselves on the NCAA tournament bubble going into the rivalry game.

Arizona State continues their home stand as they split in a hard-fought weekend of games against UCLA and USC. The Sun Devils could have been talking sweep if they didn't fold against UCLA. After trailing by 10 points with 11 minutes to play in the game, the Bruins went on an 18-2 run to regain the lead and take the victory. Against USC, the Sun Devils had a quiet first half but exploded in the second coming back from nine down, and put away the Trojans for their first conference victory. In the win, Jeff Pendergraph scored 14 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.

For the Wildcats, this season has been a trying one to say the least. Tied for fifth in the Pac-10 was not what they were hoping for as they were picked by many pundits to contend for the national championship. They were swept at home against UCLA and USC and if they continue to struggle, they could be on the outside looking in come tournament time.

Head Coach Lute Olson

Projected Starters

PG – Mustafa Shakur – (13.5 PPG, 7.6 APG)
SG – Marcus Williams – (16.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
SF – Chase Budinger – (15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
PF – Jordan Hill – (4.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG)
C – Ivan Radenovic – (15.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Daniel Dillon
G – Nic Wise
F – Jawann McClellan
F – Bret Brielmaier
Overview

Winners of 23 of the last 24 meetings in this rivalry, the Arizona Wildcats have owned college basketball in the Grand Canyon State for quite some time now. After thumping the Sun Devils 71-47 in Tucson earlier this season, there's no question that Lute Olson and the Wildcats don't take this game lightly.

It's hard to imagine that a team with 17 wins and has a winning record in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball would be considered a disappointment and vulnerable but when your expectations call for 25 wins and a conference championship at least, it's safe to say that this year's Arizona Wildcats squad has failed to meet their goals.

This is a team with some of the best players in the country but they have failed to gel as a whole and the defense has struggled in many aspects. The two biggest stars on the team are a sophomore and freshman so the team is still very raw in terms of experience and inconsistent shooting and spotty bench play has made it a tougher season than usual for the Cats.

In Arizona's game against UCLA, the Wildcats used nine players and three of them played less than three minutes each. In other words, Arizona has very little depth. Jordan Hill replaced Jawann McClellan in the starting lineup to give them more size and thus McClellan is now the sixth man and the only bench player that receives significant minutes these days. Dillon, Wise, and Brielmaier come in only to give starters a brief rest or if a starter gets in foul trouble.

Guards

In terms of talent, Mustafa Shakur and Marcus Williams can play with anyone in the country and be successful. Shakur is a great leader and sees the court well. Williams is a terrific scorer and has great range. For the Sun Devils, all three freshmen are picking up their games as of late, especially Derek Glasser who scored 14 points in the victory over USC.

Solid Edge – Arizona

Forwards

Chase Budinger is in a class by himself when it comes to athleticism and he has really matured nicely as the season has gone along. Jordan Hill is new to the starting lineup but he had his coming out party against ASU earlier this season and can really create match up problems with his strength. ASU will be trotting out Allen Morill and Serge Angounou, both of whom will undoubtedly have an extra bounce in their steps as it will be Senior Night at Wells Fargo Arena. Combo guard and forward Antwi Atuahene has done a fantastic job playing bigger than he is and can cause issues for slower forwards.

Slight Edge – Arizona

Centers

Ivan Radenovic has expanded his game this season and he's no longer just mid-range offensive threat. He has put on muscle and has been rebounding and scoring in the paint much more than in years past and is the most improved Wildcat this season. Going against Radenovic will be the Sun Devils' star, Jeff Pendergraph. If Pendergraph can find his mid-range stroke early on, he will give Radenovic fits and could be a key to a potential upset.

Slight Edge – Arizona State

Final Score – Arizona 69 Arizona State 65


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