Time was, the annual trek to So-Cal by Arizona State and Arizona's men's basketball teams was something to fear. Actually, that would have been just a few years ago, when UCLA was oh-so-close to winning a national championship or two.
But that (as the cliche goes) was then and this is now.
Both USC and UCLA have struggled so far this season, with the Trojans at 5-10 (0-2 in the newly reformed Pac-12 Conference) and the Bruins at a lowly 7-7 (also 0-2 in league play).
Still, USC's head coach Kevin O'Neill's (who spent several years working in Tucson under Lute Olson and later had a short and troubled stint there as head coach) teams always play very, very hard and effective defense.
That spells big trouble for an Arizona State team (4-9 overall and 0-1 in the Pac-12) that, to be kind, has been having a tough time putting the ball in the basket.
The Devils face the Trojans tonight out at the Galen Center in a 8:30 game that (thankfully, most likely) will be not televised. The excellent Tim Healey will call the game on KTAR 620.
We don't know what the over-under odds are on this game, and without looking it up (honest) we would gladly take the under of 115 points combined by both teams.
This one promises to be ugly, with most every basket being a mountain to climb.
Down in Anaheim in a game that will be aired on Channel 34 at 9 p.m., the Arizona Wildcats--a pretty good little team at 10-4 overall and 1-0 in the league (they beat ASU on New Year's Eve) face UCLA.
Why Anaheim and the Honda Center, you might ask, instead of Westwood and Pauley Pavilion, the old gym where Coach John Wooden and all of his great teams used to live?
That arena is undergoing a massive renovation, which has left the Bruins without a real home court this season. The Honda Center (formerly known as The Pond) will not provide much of a home-court advantage for UCLA, what with the students still on winter break.
Though it seems like a long time ago, it's just been ten months that Arizona came but one shot away from upsetting Connecticut in the West Regional finals and going to the Final Four.
That contest, as we recall, was played on that same court in Anaheim.
Expect a close and far more exciting to watch game than the one about 20 miles away between ASU and UCLA.
Both Arizona schools will be unhappy to return to the desert without at least one win after the weekend.
In fact, the Wildcats surely expect to sweep the La-La schools, which would be a huge start to what should be a very tight race in a league that definitely isn't at its best at the moment.