Tonight, the #2 ranked Arizona Wildcats come to Wells Fargo Arena to battle the Arizona State Sun Devils. Both UA and ASU are coming off sweeps of the Oregon schools last weekend. In the first installment of this Territorial Cup game, U of A thumped the Sun Devils 91-68.
That game was a month ago. Both teams have gone through some changes.
For Arizona, starting forward Brandon Ashley went down with a torn ACL in the game against Cal. (Arizona’s only loss) The Wildcats have had two games to adjust to playing without the services of Ashley. They are still a talented team, but they are clearly not the same without Ashley.
As for ASU, they have won five of their last six games since their meeting with Arizona. After that loss, coach Herb Sendek made a lineup change by starting forward Eric Jacobsen for Jonathan Gilling. So far, the switch has been a successful move. Additionally, on the trip to Tucson last month, ASU starting forward Jermaine Marshall did not play due to a minor injury. His absence was a factor. Marshall has been healthy since then and has played extremely well, leading the Sun Devils in scoring in several games and hitting big shots when ASU needed it most.
It would be a mistake to not mention the recent play of Jordan Bachynski. In the last 3 games, Bachynski has been on a tear. He was named the PAC-12 player of the week after last weekend’s effort against the two Oregon schools. The 26 point performance against the Ducks was probably the best game of his career. Arizona is surely aware of this, so it will be interesting to see how they Wildcats game plan for him.
Finally, this game will be in Tempe. Home games in college basketball are always an advantage. Expect a raucous crowd and an incredible atmosphere. But as always, in the end, the winner of this game will be the team that executes. For ASU to pull off the upset, they will have to play extremely well. Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski will have to…..well…..be Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski–they’ll have to lead the way and do what they do. The role players, especially the shooters, will have to be on point. They can’t have a cold night and expect to beat Arizona. But it isn’t an impossibility for ASU to have a really good game against the Wildcats. Rivalry games tend to sharpen the focus of everyone involved. If the Sun Devils mentally “lock in” and play with the mental freedom of being the underdogs, they can celebrate a victory at game’s end.