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Talkin’ Tall Firs: Two Hot Opponents in the Desert

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Can the Duck stay atop the PAC-12 standings after a tough road trip this week?

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks may be first in the PAC-12 standings right now but only one game separates first place and sixth place. That’s how crazy this conference has been this year and how different the order in the standings can be each week.

Coming off a perfect week with wins over a ranked Colorado and Utah, the #14 Ducks (20-6, 9-4) are looking for a regular season sweep of both Arizona State and Arizona. The Ducks have won six of their last eight games and are 14-0 at home this season but can they do it on the road? That is a place they’ve struggled this season, only 4-6 when away from Matthew Knight Arena.

Francis Okoro looked very comfortable back on the court last week, adding a few nice post moves and down-low presence for the Ducks. Although his contribution was small, the Ducks could use every little bit of help down the late stretch of the season. As for the other big man, It seems that N’Faly Dante has been practicing but will be a game-time decision this week. Huge game-changer if he does end up playing in the last regular-season road trip for Oregon.

Arizona State Sun Devils (17-8, 8-4)

Another huge game for the Ducks in PAC-12 play in the last couple weeks. Arizona State (as well as Arizona) is currently only half a game back of Oregon in the PAC-12 standings so this game is very important for both teams.

Arizona State is a bubble team as of right now but they are making their NCAA Tournament case with a hot stretch of play lately. The Sun Devils have won five in a row and seven of their last eight games. Bobby Hurley has got his team clicking at the right time once again.

Wins - Central Connecticut, Rider, Saint John’s, @ Princeton, @ San Francisco, Louisiana, Prairie Valley, Georgia, Texas Southern, @ Oregon State, Utah, #22 Arizona, @ Washington, UCLA, USC, @ Stanford, @ California

Losses - Colorado, #7 Virginia, Saint Mary’s, Creighton, @ #25 Arizona, @ #9 Oregon, #20 Colorado, @ Washington State

KenPom Ranking - #58

Key Numbers:

  • 73.5 points per game
  • 36.6 rebounds per game
  • 10.9 assists per game
  • 3.4 blocks per game
  • 7.7 steals per game
  • 69.2 points allowed per game
  • 42.9 field goal percentage

Player to Watch For:

Remy Martin, Junior - 19.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 44.4 FG%

I’m excited for this matchup between currently the top two scoring threats in the PAC-12 and top two player of the year candidates, Payton Pritchard and Remy Martin. Keep an eye on the back-and-forth these two will be having at the Desert Financial Arena.

Remy has been a consistent player that Hurley can rely on to be the leader on the floor each and every night. He leads the team in both points and assists. Martin isn’t afraid to drive to the rim even if he’s only a 6’0” guard. He can also stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting which makes him an offensive threat at all times.

Game Time:

#14 Oregon @ Arizona State - 9:00 PM ET, ESPN on Thursday, February 20th

Score Prediction:

79-74, Ducks over Sun Devils

#24 Arizona Wildcats (18-7, 8-4)

Wins - Northern Arizona, Illinois, San Jose State, New Mexico State, South Dakota State, Long Beach State, Pepperdine, Penn, Wake Forest, Omaha, Arizona State, Utah, #20 Colorado, @ Washington, @ Washington State, USC, @ California, @ Stanford

Losses - @ #18 Baylor, #6 Gonzaga, Saint John’s, @ #9 Oregon, @ Oregon State, @ Arizona State, UCLA

KenPom Ranking - #13

Key Numbers:

  • 78.0 points per game (36th in the nation)
  • 37.6 rebounds per game
  • 15.5 assists per game (37th in the nation)
  • 3.8 blocks per game
  • 6.7 steals per game
  • 65.1 points allowed per game (68th in the nation)
  • 45.7 field goal percentage

Player to Watch For:

Nico Mannion, Freshman - 13.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.2 SPG

The future NBA first round pick is a special ball-handler and can be an elite passer at the next level. He’s crafty on the offensive end, scoring in many different ways (off the dribble, from long range, step-back). You name the move, he can probably do it while scoring on you. Nico has gladly taken over the role as Sean Miller’s guy on this Wildcat team.

Game Time:

#14 Oregon @ #24 Arizona - 9:00 PM ET, ESPN on Saturday, February 22nd

Score Prediction:

81-70, Wildcats over Ducks

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*Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho