Arizona Hosts Arizona State, Looks for Upsets From Pac-12 Rivals
Most NCAA hoops teams are wrapping up their regular seasons this weekend before conference tournaments begin next week. In the West, #1 Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0) will play in the semi final game of the WCC tournament against Loyola Mary (11-22, 1-15) on Saturday.
#12 New Mexico (26-4, 13-2) sits at the top of Mountain West conference and will play Air Force (16-12, 7-8) on Saturday. They have no chance of losing their title championship but they don’t want a loss to blemish their Big Dance bid.
The team has struggled against lesser teams, but it won’t happen for this game. They get a slight winning nod (-3.5).
Over in the Pac-12, teams are playing out their seasons and on Saturday, the #18 Arizona Wildcats (23-6, 11-6) will host in-state rival, the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-10, 9-8). For the Wildcats, there’s still playing for a conference championship and a bye in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament.
Arizona vs. Arizona State
In the teams’ previous meeting on Jan. 19, the Wildcats won 71-54 in Tempe. From their last 16 meetings on its home court, Arizona has won 13 games with two consecutive wins by double digits.
Overall, they play well at home with a 13-2 record this season but they have lost their last two games and their last four of seven. Hopes of a Pac-12 crown are fading but fortunately their rivals UCLA, California and Oregon all suffered losses this week.
There’s now still hope to get a portion of the conference title but the stars need to align on Saturday with a Wildcat win, a UCLA loss vs. Washington and an Oregon loss against Utah.
A quick look at this says it’s unlikely to happen and should Arizona instead lose and Colorado defeats Oregon State, the Wildcats have to settle with a fifth place conference finish and no first-round bye in the conference tournament.
They’ll need to overcome some defensive challenges as they sputtered against USC on Feb. 27 with an 89-78 loss. The Trojans shot well–61.1 percent–the highest for an opponent since 2006.
Then there’s last week’s 74-69 loss against UCLA. That brought out a tie for a season low with nine turnovers; the team also gave up 46.8 percent shooting. Opponents have been averaging 63.6 points from 41.4 percent shooting.
Senior Kevin Parrom has been open about his team’s defensive struggles and said via ESPN, “We just worried about defense. It showed a little bit. We have to improve on defense and we got better today on defense.”
Offensively, Parrom has helped the team with his 15.3 point average in their last three games along with his 71.4 percent shooting. Meanwhile, Brandon Ashley has not shown up recently. After hitting double-digit scoring in five of eight games, he’s only had nine points total in the last three games.
For Arizona, it will hope Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill play well. Lyons had 24 points in the first Arizona State game but has been cold lately from the 3-point range (7-for-31).
What will the Sun Devils bring to Tucson on Saturday? Their invite to the Big Dance is really looking slim after they’ve suffered three consecutive losses and have no impressive conference wins. They’re one of those teams who need a win on Saturday and a surprising run next weekend to get any looks for a very unlikely bid.
The team will also need a short memory about their last game against the Wildcats. It represented one of their worst performances with its season-low point total and only 39.1 percent shooting.
Jahii Carson is the team’s bright spot for scoring and contributed 22 points in the first Arizona game and 23 points against USC last week. He is ranked No. 2 for scoring in the country for freshmen with his 17.8 points per game; this includes his 21.5 average from eight Pac-12 road games.
But this may not be enough for Saturday’s game as the Wildcats get the win (-11).