The 233rd men's basketball meeting between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats just might be the most hyped matchup in the history of the two programs.
The surprising Sun Devils are a perfect 12-0 and are ranked No. 3 in the nation, matching their highest-ever ranking. The Wildcats, which opened the season as the nation's No. 2 team, have won seven straight games after a shaky start to the season, and they've won seven in a row vs. ASU in Tucson.
Who will win Saturday night's game at McKale Center? Here are a pair of predictions from the ABC15 sports team.
ABC15 sports anchor Jason Snavely
There’s a reason for all the hype. This could very well be the best hoops matchup we’ve ever seen between these two programs.
The undefeated Sun Devils taking on their big brother from down south. And I do mean big. Arizona has a couple of powerful 7-footers down low, including Deandre Ayton, a freshman who could be the top pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Simply put, Ayton is a freak of an athlete that’s in a league of his own. He can quite literally do it all. Sure, you can double-team him. Only problem? The Wildcats have two other possible first-round picks on the floor, as well. Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins help round out arguably the most talented roster in the country.
But that’s not taking anything away from ASU. The Devils are No. 3 in the country for a reason. Their guard play is outstanding. They’re fast, they can spread the floor, and they can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. Right now, the Sun Devils are second in the PAC-12 in 3-point percentage. But maybe most importantly, ASU is riding a wave, out to its best start in school history (12-0), and there’s an excitement surrounding this team like we’ve never seen before.
So, who will win? Well, believe it or not, these two teams have only met four times when both are ranked in the AP poll. In those four meetings, ASU is undefeated. I say that streak continues Saturday night in Tucson.
ASU 92, Arizona 88
ABC15.com sportswriter Shane Dale
Despite what some UA fans think (or hope), I don’t think ASU is destined to “come crashing down to Earth” following its incredible start. But the Sun Devils have had an advantage over the Wildcats and other teams who feature a number of one-and-done players, simply because they haven’t had to recreate themselves this year. The nucleus of this year’s ASU team is the same as last year’s, and the senior guard trio of Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice has been outstanding through the Devils' non-conference schedule.
But the Wildcats are simply a more talented team than ASU, and they have begun to carve out an identity of their own since last month's ill-fated trip to the Bahamas when they lost three games in a row. They’ve won seven straight and have a healthy Rawle Alkins, who missed the first month of the season with a foot injury – and on Saturday, they’ll have a McKale Center crowd that will generate the kind of noise that’s usually reserved for when UCLA comes to town.
If the Devils make 15-plus 3-pointers on Saturday – which they’re capable of doing on any given night – all bets are off. But I like UA to win its eighth straight game, as well as its eighth in a row over ASU in McKale, as the Deandre Ayton-Dusan Ristic combo will be a bit too much for the Devils to handle for 40 minutes.