The Sun Devils need Jahii Carson to play perfect basketball down the stretch. - Douglas C. Pizac-USA TODAY Sports
At 18-7, Arizona State can't afford to lose any more games down the stretch. Colorado presents another road test, and the Buffaloes are eager to split the season series with the Sun Devils.
Another day, another game.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devil basketball squad, tonight's matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes doesn't represent just one more game.
After suffering a brutal collapse at the hands of the Utah Utes on Wednesday night, the Sun Devils come into Boulder needing a win to keep their slim hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament alive.
On Wednesday, the Sun Devils saw their tournament dreams flash before their eyes as they failed to hold an eight-point lead over the final four minutes against a Utah team that has spent most of 2013 dwelling in the Pac-12 cellar.
Arizona State will now play its final six regular season games under an enormous amount of pressure. Lose just once, and the Sun Devils will likely seal their fate as an NIT front-runner rather than a March Madness dark horse.
Over the course of the final six games, the maroon and gold will assume no certainties. Every game can be won, but just as easily lost.
The Sun Devils aren't out of hope just yet, but they'll need to put their best foot forward over the final three weeks of the regular season to have a chance at earning their way back onto the tournament bubble.
State of the Sun Devils: For Coach Herb Sendek, Wednesday night's loss signified an absolute disaster. His team limped out of the gates and managed just 22 first half points against Utah.
Senior Carrick Felix (14 points, 11 rebounds) appeared to be the only Sun Devil able to maintain some sort of consistency, as the offense looked stagnant against a Utes defense that rarely stifles opponents.
Though he has had a phenomenal freshman campaign, Jahii Carson scored just 12 points while turning the ball over six times and fouling out.
The normally reliable Jonathan Gilling contributed just seven points and four rebounds, with each total being below his season average.
Despite all of the rough outings, the biggest question mark for Coach Sendek remains the center position. In a combined 37 minutes of play, Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev totaled just seven points and six rebounds.
If the Sun Devils want to have a chance against the Buffaloes, every player has to bring a sharper mental focus into this game. After Wednesday's loss, this team knows its vulnerable, and the players understand it's go-time.
State of the Buffaloes: Two weeks ago, the Buffaloes received a similar humbling at the hands of the Utah Utes. Colorado fell in a disappointing 58-55 loss, but the game may have served as the wakeup call Coach Tad Boyle believes his team needed.
After falling to Utah, the Buffs have embarked on a three-game tear that includes wins over Oregon and Oregon State and a 13-point victory over the Arizona Wildcats.
Forward Andre Roberson has been a double-double machine for the Buffaloes and averages 10.4 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
Against the Wildcats, the Buffaloes nailed nine of their 17 3-point attempts which could spell doom against a Sun Devil team susceptible to long-range shots.
Like the Sun Devils, the Buffaloes have a 7-5 mark in the Pac-12, and every game is a must-win.
Prediction: Few Pac-12 contests are as intriguing as this matchup between two teams clinging to hopes of NCAA Tournament berths.
At 18-7, the Sun Devils know their weak nonconference slate makes Pac-12 games all the more important.
At 17-7, the Buffaloes have a little more leeway, but a 7-5 conference mark is less than stellar in the Pac-12.
Each team has so much riding on Saturday's game, but the Sun Devils need this one just a little bit more.
The power of belief and the play of Jahii Carson help the Sun Devils slip by with a 65-60 win.