Arizona State knows exactly what they’re getting into Thursday afternoon in the second round of the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament here at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Coming off a hard-fought 89-88 overtime win over eighth-seeded Stanford (their first conference tourney win since 2009), ASU (21-11) will face Pac-12 regular season champ UCLA in the quarterfinals, but the Sun Devils won’t be intimidated. There’s no reason to be after the Devils pounded the Bruins 78-60 in Tempe in late January and fell in overtime 79-74 in Westwood last month.
One matchup to watch closely is senior Carrick Felix, arguably the best man defender in the conference, against Bruins super freshman Shabazz Muhammed.
“I just got to play him straight up just like I do everybody else,” Felix said about guarding Muhammed in the post-game press conference Wednesday. “He runs the floor. He’s a smart player. I just need to stay composed and be smart on defense.”
Felix had 16 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in the loss to UCLA on February 27th.
Head coach Herb Sendek will also rely on super freshman point guard Jahii Carson who scored 34 against Stanford and played well in both regular season games against the Bruins.
One advantage for UCLA is they will be well-rested after getting an automatic bye as one of the top four seeds entering the tournament. The Bruins (23-8) have won six of their last nine.