Time to get the analyst's perspective on what's shaping up to Arizona State's most important game of the season.
Just because we figure you're tired of listing to us yap, we decided to bring in former ASU point guard and current color analyst Kyle Dodd to get some insight from a true pro. SPOILER ALERT: he expects this Saturday's game between the Wildcats and Sun Devils to be a doozy:
What is your favorite rivalry memory when it comes to ASU basketball?
Kyle Dodd: Well, during time I was [at Arizona State] was obviously when [the Wildcats] were loaded. So for me, it would be the time that we beat them at home during my junior year. We smacked them pretty good (won 88-72). Personally, that's probably my best moment but I also enjoyed James Harden's freshman year when they beat [Arizona] at home. I thought that was kind of like when I realized, "okay, things are changing."
Where does last year's 87-80 upset over Arizona last season rank in this rivalry for you?
KD: I think it's up there. I think just the fact that not only did you get a big win in a year that was a struggle, you also hurt your rival. You probably cost them an invitation to the tournament. I think that was obviously a tough year for [ASU]. That was my first year announcing and it was a bit crazy but to end the year that way made everyone feel a little bit better about things.
Looking back at that game, do you think there's anything that the Devils can build off and carry over to this matchup?
I think that they'll have the confidence. There are still some guys left over on the roster for both teams so they'll know that they can play with them. But to be honest with you, this is a completely different year for both squads. Arizona has had a big influx of talent and ASU is still trying to change the culture and get away from what happened last year. Both teams play completely different styles but guys like Chris Colvin and Jonathan Gilling
who played well last year will be able to draw from that experience.
KD: I still think they're the team to beat in the [Pac-12] as much as that pains me to say it. They're loaded talent-wise. Where they have to answer some questions is scoring in the half-court. That's kind of an interesting thing because I think that ASU has to play fast offensively to have success against them but I also think they need to play slow defensively. It's going to be interesting to see how they figure that out. If you force [the Wildcats] to score in the half-court, they could struggle like they have at times.
Do you see anything in particular that Arizona State will be able to exploit when you look over the Wildcats roster?
They need to make UofA prove that they can execute in a half-court set. UofA is so talented but they have so many alike players and so many combo-guards. They have three or four guys that can do a lot of things but they don't have a true point. Mark Lyons
is playing the point but Lyons is more of a two. For ASU, they really have to force them to execute. If you get into an open court game and UofA is allowed to make plays, they can hurt you...It's a really interesting game to me because you want to slow them down when they're on offense but you also want to play fast.
How do you think Jahii Carson will fare in his first rivalry game?
KD: I'm expecting a big game for him. I think that when the lights come on, he's ready to roll. I always thought he was good and I thought he was super-talented when I saw him in high school. But just seeing him in the bigger games this year, you can just tell the trust he has in his teammates. It's so unique. You look at the Colorado game where he understood that they were trying to take the ball out of his hands. He didn't force the issue. He pitched the ball ahead and most of the time it worked.
Has Carson's unselfishness been the most surprising aspect of his game for you?
KD: I think so. I wanted to see what he would be able to do as far is running the show and running the team. He's passed every test I've had for him. A lot of games have gone [the same way as Colorado]. He trust teammates, he gets people involved early and then when it's his time, he takes over. If you look at any real good guard across the country, that's how they do it.
What has shocked you most about this ASU team so far?
Well I haven't seen an ASU team in four or five years that plays this hard...I think a lot of that is attributed to Carrick Felix. He's totally reshaped his game and his mindset and he's doing a great job leading this team. His energy level and all the stuff he brings to the table is contagious. Then there's young talent like [Carson] and the big guy down low [Jordan Bachynski
]; I just think this team has all the dynamics that make up a good college basketball team. I didn't know how that would all come together but so far it has fit. They play hard and get after it enough that they'll be in most games.
What do you think the Devils will have to do Saturday to secure a victory?
KD: They have to punch them in the mouth early, utilize the home crowd and outwork [the Wildcats]. Obviously UofA is ultra-talented but [ASU] can match them with size, they can match them with athleticism and they can match them with speed. It's going to come down to the little things but when you're at home, a lot of that stuff goes your way. They still have to make that happen though. I think that they have the personnel to play with Arizona but it's going to be a matter of playing harder than them. That's been one of the strengths this year. You can say what you want about the soft, non-conference schedule but this team has learned how to win. And that's huge.