This is going to be a fun one. Carson has proclaimed himself as the best point guard in the conference and as soon as he did that, you had to know that Lyons would have it in his head up until they met. Carson has been one of the best freshmen in the country this year, averaging 17 points and five assists while shooting 45 percent from the field. Lyons has similar numbers, but shoots at a slightly lower percentage than Carson.
Carson is not much of a three-point shooter and his strength is getting into the lane, which Arizona has been good at defending this season. In addition, Lyons seems to thrive in road environments, although Carson likes the big game as well. There is not a huge difference between the players and with motivation and such being a factor, we see this one pretty even on Saturday.
SG: Nick Johnson (6-3, 200, So.) vs. Evan Gordon (6-1, 187, Jr.)
Johnson seems to be back on track after playing well against the Oregon schools and Gordon is coming off one of the best games of his career. However, Johnson has been much more consistent and when you factor everything in, this has the potential to be one of Arizona's bigger advantages on Saturday.
Gordon only shoots 36 percent from the field but, with Arizona's three-point defense, it is a concern that the majority of shots he takes are from behind the arc. Still, Gordon is a sink or swim type of player. Either he is going to have a fantastic game or struggle, as there does not seem to be an in-between for him this season. Johnson is generally more consistent and the better overall player.
SF: Solomon Hill (6-7, 220, Sr.) vs. Carrick Felix (6-6, 197, Sr.)
Felix has improved his scoring average by five points, his rebounding average by four, nearly doubled his amount of blocks, increased his shooting percentage by 12 percent, and lowered his turnovers. Basically, there are not many players that have improved as much as he has and Felix is now one of the best players in the conference. This is a big matchup because if Hill can contain Felix or at least lower his percentages, Arizona State's chances of winning decrease dramatically.
Felix is one of the better defenders in the Pac-12, so Hill is going to have his work cut out for him. Arizona's senior forward has responded in games like these and it is hard to imagine him struggling considering how hard he took last year's loss. We don't see either player having an advantage here but, if they do, it could mean the difference in the game.
PF: Brandon Ashley (6-8, 235, Fr.) vs. Jonathan Gilling (6-7, 219, So.)
Gilling is a solid rebounder, but his biggest attribute is his three-point shooting. Unfortunately, he is only shooting 34 percent from behind the arc compared to the 41 percent he shot last season. When Gilling is not making his threes, he is a relatively ineffective player and he has struggled against the better teams this season. However, Arizona needs to be careful in order to not let him get into a rhythm because, if he does, it could be a long afternoon.
Ashley is easily the more versatile player offensively, but he is going to have to be able to work through screens and get out on Gilling or Sean Miller will not hesitate to go to Kevin Parrom in this spot. On the other hand, Gilling is going to have difficulty guarding Ashley and if he is aggressive, there is little reason to think Ashley will not be able to put together an effective game.
C: Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, 255, Fr.) vs. Jordan Bachynski (7-2, 250, Jr.)
Tarczewski does not need to score to be effective in this game. If he can keep Bachynski's rebounding numbers lower and make it harder for him to rotate and block shots, Tarczewski has had a successful game. However, that is easier said than done considering that Bachynski is one of the best shot blockers in the country.
If Tarczewski can get going early, it is going to help Arizona a ton. If he struggles and gets in foul trouble, it should be a big advantage to Arizona State unless Grant Jerrett can come in and be effective. Bachynski is better than any center Arizona can present and his effect on the game defensively is notable.
Advantage: Arizona State
Bench: Arizona State brings Chris Colvin off the bench for decent minutes but beyond that there is not much. Colvin is good for a bucket or two and a handful of rebounds, but is not going to hurt Arizona too much. He has only scored in double figures the first two games of the season and has been inconsistent.
Arizona will likely bring Kevin Parrom off the bench and he is better than any other option ASU has. Even if Parrom starts, Ashley is just as effective as anything ASU has on its bench and when you throw in Grant Jerrett and Jordin Mayes, this is Arizona's biggest advantage of the game and one that could be the deciding factor.
Coaching Sean Miller vs. Herb Sendek
Sendek deserves credit for making the right moves to save his job and he seems to be doing it this season. His assistant hires have helped him a ton and his change in offensive attitude has also been successful. Still, he has not had a ton of success at Arizona State and Sean Miller is widely considered to be the better coach.
Prediction: This is a tough one because I feel that either Arizona State is going to win or Arizona will win by double digits. For some reason, I do not believe that this will be a close game that Arizona would win. Considering the environment, it feels like a close game would give ASU the advantage. Arizona has the clear advantage at shooting guard and on the bench, but the other positions are pretty close. Figuring Arizona can contain ASU from three, you would have to think that the Wildcats would do just fine. If a guy like Gilling or Gordon gets going, however, Arizona is in trouble. With Lyons being motivated and guys like Hill and Parrom remembering what happened last year, we would be hard-pressed not to pick Arizona.
Arizona 76, Arizona State 66