The Arizona Wildcats drive northwest on the 10 tonight to play the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe. ASU is 19-6 this season and 7-6 in conference play. They started out the year blistering hot and have cooled down a bit since conference play started.
#0 Tra Holder 6’1″ G (Sr.)
#11 Shannon Evans 6’1″ G (Sr.)
#44 Kodi Justice 6’5″ F (Sr.)
#10 Vitaliy Shibel 6’9″ F (Fr.)
#23 Romello White 6’8″ F (Fr.)
Off the bench: #1 Remy Martin 6’0″ G (Fr.), #35 De’quon Lake 6’10” F (Jr.), #3 Mickey Mitchell 6’7″ F (So.), #14 Kimani Lawrence 6’7″ F (Fr.)
Rather than a look at offense and defense and strengths and weaknesses, it may be best to just lay this game out for what it is: A rivalry game where anything can happen and anything goes. When the Cats and the Devils dance it’s always a ball.
There are quite a few seniors in this game and the last time these two met was in Tucson in late December where the Cats won by 6. In that game the Cats shot 45% from the field and 40% from 3. ASU shot 38% from the field and 32% from 3.
ASU is one of the fastest teams in college basketball and they can put up some big numbers quickly. They average 85 points per game, good for 13th in the NCAA. They also have a knack for getting to the free throw line. They are 6th in free throws made and 7th in free throws attempted in Division 1. They are a solid 8 or 9 deep and Remy Martin comes off the bench like a downhill skier out of the gates. When it comes to running the floor and getting to the basket, he is an undersized Russ Westbrook with finesse rather than anger.
The Cats will have a definite size advantage again in this game but look for ASU to speed the game up in order to try and marginalize Arizona’s bigs. ASU’s starting guards Holder and Evans are each averaging close to 20 points per game and will look to have big games in their last home battle against their rivals. Freshman forward Romello White is a space-eater and a tough interior player who averages 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. They have a number of secondary and bench players capable of making big contributions in any game. It’ll be bombs away for ASU’s guards as they all seem to have the green light when they cross half-court.
Two of the more interesting aspects to this game are the battles just outside the lines. Coach Sean Miller and Coach Bobby Hurley are two of the more animated Generals in the Pac-12. Former teammates on the 1991 USA team, Miller and Hurley have taken the UA/ASU rivalry to new heights. Add to the mix ASU’s brilliant and famous “curtain of distraction” (which students use to attempt to distract opposing free throw shooters) and what you have is not a volatile and wildly entertaining basketball game, but a volatile and wildly entertaining basketball event!
The execution and preparation for this game are important, but this one will most likely come down to effort and heart. This far into the season, players should be well accustomed to their respective systems and assignments…now it’s time to implement the plan, go play, and be willing (and knowledgable enough) to improvise at the right times. You can throw out your game plan near the end of these types of games when critical plays are needed. Who will make those plays will determine who will win this game.