Arizona Preview

The surprising Arizona State Sun Devils (12-2, 2-0) host the Arizona Wildcats (10-4, 1-1) on Wednesday night. The Sun Devils are 2-0 in Pac-10 play for just the third time in 30 years and are within striking distance of being nationally ranked for the first time since 1995. This rivalry has been one-sided in the last decade as the Wildcats have trumped the Sun Devils in 12 straight meetings.

Yet, with a dramatically improved ASU team and an Arizona team dealing with minor injury issues and a heavily scrutinized coaching situation, the Sun Devils may finally have the confidence and talent to end that streak.

Arizona State is led by the duo of James Harden (17.6 PPG) and Jeff Pendergraph (13.7 PPG) and the floor general, Derek Glasser, leads the Pac-10 in Assist-to-Turnover ratio and has really elevated his game in recent weeks. The rivalry with the Wildcats is so lopsided that no one on the ASU coaching staff or the roster was around the last time the Sun Devils prevailed. However, Herb Sendek has beaten the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament when he was the coach of Miami (Ohio).

Head Coach Kevin O'Neill

Projected Starters

PG – Jerryd Bayless – (18.5 PPG, 4.2 APG)
SG – Jawann McClellan – (8.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG)
SF – Chase Budinger – (17.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG)
PF – Bret Brielmaier – (3.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG)
C – Jordan Hill – (13.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Nic Wise
G – Daniel Dillon
F – Jamelle Horne
C – Kirk Walters

Overview

In this decade, Arizona State has had its hold on the Territorial Cup in the football rivalry. On the other hand, for much longer than that Arizona has maintained their elite status in college basketball and have picked on the Sun Devils as well as the rest of the Pac-10, for the most part.

However this season is different.

While the Wildcats are still supremely talented and still expected to finish around the top of the conference standings when all is said and done, the Sun Devils are fighting to reach the next level and a win over their archrival will be huge for Sendek and Co. Another reason the Sun Devils can be confident is their perfect 10-0 record this season at Wells Fargo Arena.

Guards

The big unknown in this game is Jerryd Bayless. Nursing a sprained knee and having missed three consecutive games, the Phoenix freshman runs the show for O'Neill and the team is notably better with him in the lineup. If Bayless plays, expect him to be running around all over the court, giving Glasser and Jamelle McMillan fits.

If he is not in the lineup, Nic Wise will get the nod and while he is a formidable player, he doesn't provide the instant spark that Bayless does. Also starting in the backcourt for UofA is Jawann McClellan - a sharpshooter who has played well against ASU in his career, McClellan has struggled shooting this year. Nonetheless, his size and athleticism will prove to be a tall order for young Ty Abbott. Glasser is playing his best basketball as a Sun Devil and Abbott has hit a cold streak but if Glasser continues his heady play and Abbott knocks down his shots, the Sun Devils will be in good shape.

Edge – Even

Forwards

The Arizona Wildcats are talented and deep at forward with Chase Budinger on the wing and a rotation of Brielmaier and Horne down low. Budinger is a world-class athlete that is dangerous no matter where he is on the floor. Brielmaier is a good defensive presence and does the dirty work for the Wildcats while Horne is a long and athletic big man that creates matchup problems with slower big men. ASU will counter with James Harden and Jerren Shipp. Harden is coming off a huge week against the Oregon schools when he averaged 22 points and was awarded the Pac-10 player of the week.

Slight Edge – Arizona

Centers

While the key factors in this game include the health of Jerryd Bayless and the battle between Harden and Budinger, the most influential factor may be the duel down low with Jeff Pendergraph and Jordan Hill matching up. Both players have similar statistics and Hill has really grown into his role as an offensive force underneath while Pendergraph is the heart and soul of the Sun Devils who wants a win against the Wildcats more than anything. This will be an exciting duel to keep an eye on.

Slight Edge – Arizona State

Final Score – Arizona State 71 Arizona 66

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