Regardless of the records the rivalry is always intense when the University of Arizona and Arizona State square off.
Saturday will be no different but for the first time in since the James Harden Days in Tempe the Devils season resume is somewhat comparable to their not-so-friendly neighbors down south.
Both teams are tied for third in the jumbled Pac-12 at 3-1 following road losses to Oregon last week. The ‘Cats are 15-1 and ASU is 14-3. Both are somewhat surprising, especially the early season success of Herb Sendek’s team who’s coming off consecutive 20+ loss seasons.
The catalyst and engine that makes the Devils go is redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson who’s lived up to the hype. The former Mesa High star became the first ASU freshman to score 20 or more points in both games of a conference road trip since 1984. On the season he’s averaging 17 points and five assists.
“He’s spectacular,” CBS college basketball analyst and former Wildcat guard Steve Kerr told Brad Cesmat Tuesday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “The guy is one of the fastest players I’ve seen in a long time. I think, although he didn’t want to sit out last year, it helped him adapt to college life and to fight even harder to get back in the lineup and to get his eligibility back.”
ASU also benefits from a strong inside presence in 7’2 junior center Jordan Bachynski (10.4 points per game, 7.2 rebounds, 74 blocks) and senior wing Carrick Felix from Goodyear who’s second on the team in scoring (15.1 PPG) and first in rebounding at just over eight per game.
Kerr applauded the ASU administration for sticking with Sendek when many felt a change was necessary and believes the Wildcats and Sun Devils have high ceilings moving forward this season and beyond.
In Tucson head coach Sean Miller has the seventh-ranked ‘Cats poised for a run at the Pac-12 title behind a nice mix of upperclassmen like seniors Solomon Hill (13.6 points per game), Kevin Parrom, and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons (team-leading 14.6 PPG) along with talented freshmen Brandon Ashley and Grant Jarrett. Former Gilbert High sophomore Nick Johnson (12.3 PPG) has also emerged as one of the top guards in the country.
“I think they’re really good, but I don’t think they’re top five in the country as they’ve been the past couple weeks,” Kerr said to Cesmat about his alma mater. “But they’ve got good players, they’ve got good depth. They’re very well-coached.”
This weekend he said he’s expecting a “very close game” in Tempe. The Devils upset Arizona last season in the regular season finale 87-80.
Tipoff is set for 12:30 p.m. with television coverage provided by Fox Sports Net Arizona. Check back to Pros2Preps.com for complete post-game coverage.