Washington Preview

Now that there is a four-way tie for first place with just a month left to play in the Pac-10 season, things will really start to get interesting as nine teams are within reach of earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The ASU Sun Devils (16-7, 6-4) in their alarmingly similar new uniforms will travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies (15-7, 5-5) in a game with high stakes.

After a troubling home stand in which the Devils were lost two out of the three, the path to get back on track didn't get any easier when they traveled to Pullman, a place ASU hadn't won since 2003. It was an ugly game throughout but no matter how ugly a win can be, it's still a win. The Devils pulled out an 81-70 victory with Ty Abbott and Eric Boateng leading the way with 18 and 13 respectively. The Cougs received a combined 33 points from Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore.

Washington enters the game on a three-game win streak including their most recent win, an 81-75 defeat over Arizona. The Huskies received a mammoth performance from Quincy Pondexter as he poured in 30 points. It's been an up-and-down season for Washington but they love playing at home – all 15 of their wins have come in their house.

Projected Starters

G – Abdul Gaddy – (4.8 PPG, 2.6 APG) vs. Derek Glasser (10.3 PPG, 5.2 APG)

G – Isaiah Thomas – (17.1 PPG, 30% 3PT) vs. Jamelle McMillan (7.9 PPG, 40% 3PT)

G – Justin Holiday – (4.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG) vs. Ty Abbott (11.8 PPG, 44% 3PT)

F – Quincy Pondexter – (20.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG) vs. Rihards Kuksiks (12.6 PPG, 39% 3PT)

F – Tyreese Breshers – (3.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (8.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG)

Backcourt

It's an explosive backcourt for the Huskies as they are very deep and attack the hoop on offense while aggressively hounding their opponents on defense. While Gaddy, Thomas, and Holiday have been getting the starts lately, the team also has Derek Glasser's best buddy, Venoy Overton as well as Scott Suggs and Elston Turner. Holiday is a defensive specialist and will likely be following Ty Abbott everywhere he goes.

It was good to see Derek Glasser hit his shots on Thursday because that was as needed as Jamelle McMillan's return to the lineup. It's eerie how much better this team is with a guard in the lineup that just scores 7.9 PPG but whatever works. With that said, the real reason this team is even flirting with the Pac-10 lead is Abbott. After a disastrous sophomore slump, Abbott's game has risen to new heights this season. Trent Lockett and Demetrius Walker will get some good run in this game as Glasser's ankle and McMillan's foot still aren't 100%.

Edge – Even

Frontcourt

Even though Abbott is having a pretty good run lately, the real star in this game is Pondexter. After three solid seasons, he is blowing up in his Senior campaign and is the Pac-10's best big man. Aside from Pondexter, the Huskies interchange Breshers and Matthew Bryan-Amaning down low as well.

The strange balance of the ASU offense rings very true with ASU's two forwards. Kuksiks has been relatively quiet in recent weeks and Boateng has really played well in the last few weeks. There is no real method to the madness but if the Devils can keep winning more games than they are losing, I doubt Herb Sendek will complain. The reserves that will see some time are Ruslan Pateev, Taylor Rohde, and quite possibly Jerren Shipp. While he isn't a threat with the ball, Shipp is a mature player that won't lose his composure in a hostile environment.

Edge – Washington

X-Factor

Home. The Huskies are terrible on the road. They have lost all six of their road ventures in blowout fashion but the home-cooking is a little different. The Devils have been solid on the road this year but this is a different beast. To win in Seattle, ASU will need to play heady basketball and get some offense going from Kuksiks. Nothing shuts up a crowd like a clutch three.

Who Will Win and Why

Coming into this weekend, the Devils were on the outskirts of the Pac-10 race but after winning in Pullman, the top spot is up for grabs and ASU is in reach. The one thing the Devils can bring against Washington that other teams can't is experience. Loud crowds and gaudy home records don't scare teams that have a lot upperclassmen and play smart defense. I like ASU pulling off the upset on the road.

Prediction

ASU 72 Washington 70


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