We are a day away from the college basketball world turning its collective eyes on Tucson where #17 Arizona will host the #3 Arizona State Sun Devils.
It may not have been the matchup of the conference at the start of the season, but after the Sun Devils started their season 12-0 with wins against Kansas, Xavier and San Diego State, and the Wildcats bounced back after a tough trip to the Bahamas, it is looking to be a clash of the Titans.
CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein went in-depth with Brad Cesmat on both teams last week in what is sure to be a marquee matchup.
The Rawle Effect
The Sun Devils come into the matchup with the fourth-highest scoring offense in the nation. The Wildcats have struggled at times on the defensive end, but the return of Rawle Alkins in the last four games has helped solidify that side of the ball. Since the Arizona guard’s return, the ‘Cats are giving up 66.25 points per game.
“If Arizona had Rawle Alkins in the Bahamas, we would see a team that has one loss,” Rothstein said. “We would see a team that people were starting to look at as the team that everybody expected at the start of the season. I think that really allowed people to get a lot more concerned with Arizona’s situation and the truth is no one would have thought the sky was falling if Rawle Alkins had played.”
Sun Devils Are ‘Nova of the West?
The Sun Devils are led with their trio of experienced guards in Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice. While the “one-and-done” programs have been popular in recent years, Rothstein sees the Devils thriving in another style.
“Arizona State with its veterans and with its newcomers like Romello White, like Mickey Mitchell, is built more almost like a Villanova than it is a Duke or a Kentucky,” Rothstein said. “It’s benefitting from having older players that have withstood the test of time and had calluses from their college experiences.”
The HOFer Jon Rothstein is Reminded of When Watching Deandre Ayton
The Sun Devils will need to contain Arizona big man Deandre Ayton, who was a top recruit and could hear his name early in this year’s NBA Draft. When Rothstein sees Ayton, who is averaging 19.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, he is reminded of a Hall of Famer.
“He reminded me physically of David Robinson because David Robinson was a guy who could step up and extend the defense from the foul line area and beyond,” Rothstein said. “But David Robinson came into his own when was at the Naval Academy and he was a junior and senior in college. Deandre Ayton is a freshman, so he is well, well advanced beyond most big man that we’ve seen at that size at 7-foot-1.”
Regardless of your rooting interest or thoughts on the two programs, this is sure to be must-see TV.
“The one game nationally that everybody is talking about in college basketball when you look at the start of conference is Arizona-Arizona State.”
You can watch the full interview with Jon Rothstein at the top of the page.
The third-ranked Sun Devils and seventeenth-ranked Wildcats tipoff at McKale Center at 7 p.m.. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Network.