The ASU men's basketball team hasn't played in eight long days. It was back on January 21 that they squeaked by the Arizona Wsildcats in Tucson in a game that, safe to say, won't be placed into a time capsule for future generations to marvel at. Even the best of all the Sun Devils, the fabulous James Harden (slam-dunking in the photo below), had to battle his way through a tough shooting night.
With that win, ASU now finds itself in a tie for second-place in the Pac-10 Conference going into tonight's game against the physical Washington State Cougars. The Devils are just a game behind the surprising Washington Huskies, who will be in town on Saturday afternoon for what looms as a huge game for both teams. (The Saturday game starts at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on Channel 34, which is the Fox Sports network.)
We've always liked the Cougars and their youngish head coach, Tony Bennett, who was a heck of a college player himself not too many years ago.
Convincing any player worth a hoot to attend school in remote little Pullman has our undying respect, and WSU in the last few years years has been a top-tier team that has fared well in post-season play.
The Cougars started off well this season, winning three of their first four league games. But they are coming off a devastating weekend at home, having lost to UCLA and USC by a total of four points.
Both games obviously were theirs for the taking, and getting double-dipped put WSU in the unenviable position of having to earn at least a split of its two games this weekend (WSU plays Arizona on Saturday) to stay within shouting distance of the league leaders.
As for 14th-ranked ASU, the 14-3 team has had just enough talent and moxie to win some critical league games, including the recent one against the Wildcats and the improbable come-from-behind overtime road win against UCLA on January 17.
Led by Harden (unquestionably one of the best players in the league and often worth the price of admission himself at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe), the Devils are anything but a juggernaut. But, like their two opponents this weekend from the Great Northwest, ASU usually plays rugged defense from start to finish, which has paid great dividends late in many games this season.
Don't expect a high-scoring, run-and-gun shootout tonight, or on Saturday afternoon, for that matter. The two tilts this weekend, especially the one in a few hours (7 p.m. tipoff at Wells Fargo, on the ASU campus) against WSU, promise to be hard-nosed slugfests, with a final score something in the area of 64-59.
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Who's going to get the 64, well, enough armchair predictions for the moment.
Tonight's game, by the way, is not going to be televised, but will be aired on ESPN Radio, which is 860 AM here in the Valley.