Arizona State's men's basketball team will take the floor at 6:30 tonight against Southern Cal in a game with more at stake than immediately meets the eye.
The Sun Devils probably need to beat the Trojans (and do the same to the UCLA Bruins in the regular season finale on Sunday) to harbor much of a chance at making the 65-team NCAA championship field in a few weeks.
That, of course, unless they run the table in next week's Pac-10 postseason tournament in Los Angeles and earn the automatic bid to the Dance.
USC has had a strange year.
The school punished itself for recruiting violations under a previous coaching regime (Tim Floyd) shortly after the season began (beating the NCAA to the punch), announcing, among other things, that its basketball team would not be participating in postseason play -- including the Pac-10 tournament.
Many squads would have dialed it in for the rest of the year, but USC has showed great resolve.
But USC, a very physical, hard-nosed bunch who are hard to score on (the Devils put up all of 37 points for the entire game out in LA last January 2), has hung tough.
The Trojans somehow find themselves in the middle of the crowded Pac-10 conference as it plays its last games tonight and then down in Tucson on Saturday.
If ASU does hold home court this weekend, and the California Golden Bears lose to Stanford, the league's top two teams will end up tied for the conference championship.
We don't expect Stanford to pull the upset, but anything in the highly competitive (translation: mediocre) Pac-10 is possible this year.
Tonight's game will be televised on Channel 34 (FSAZ) and broadcast on 620-KTAR radio. Tip-off is about 6:40.