ASU vs. UCLA: How Important Is This Game?

Can Jahii Carson continue to work his magic against the Bruins? - USA TODAY Sports

After beating Stanford, the Sun Devils must take on the Pac-12 tournament's No. 1 seed, the UCLA Bruins. A victory would send Arizona State to the conference semifinals, but does that help their tournament chances?

The Arizona State basketball team played a whirlwind of a game on Wednesday afternoon and the Sun Devils will live to see another day.

Behind an outstanding performance from freshman guard Jahii Carson, the maroon and gold accomplished something that has troubled them throughout the season: Beating a more athletic team.

Against Stanford, the Sun Devils made up for what they lose in athleticism by playing the style of basketball that has allowed this team to succeed throughout the season. Coach Herb Sendek routinely puts the ball in the hands of Carson and senior playmaker Carrick Felix and the decision paid off against Stanford.

With Wednesday's victory, the Sun Devils put a dent in their Pac-12 tournament goal. Arizona State needs to win the conference tournament, or come up with a pair of incredibly dominant victories over the next two days to earn a berth in the big dance.

However, the victory over the Cardinal means the Sun Devils are just a quarter of their way toward reaching their ultimate goal.

On Thursday, Arizona State will take on the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, the UCLA Bruins.

The Sun Devils have had success against their foes from Los Angeles, and even scored their most impressive victory of the season, a 78-60 romping, in a home matchup with UCLA.

While the season series stands at 1-1, the Sun Devils know that no record or score from a previous game matters come game time.

Arizona State NEEDS to defeat the Bruins to keep its slim tournament hopes alive.

Thursday's game might represent a quarterfinal matchup on paper, but that does not make the matchup any less important. If the Sun Devils are able to defeat UCLA, the road to the Pac-12's automatic bid to the tournament becomes much simpler.

Coach Sendek's squad would have reached the halfway point to their tournament goal with a win over UCLA, and the Sun Devils are not short on hope.

Despite Jordan Bachynski's rough outing against Stanford, his best career game came against the Bruins.

If Jahii Carson continues to score 30 points in his Las Vegas trips (See Creighton and Stanford), the Sun Devils chances look ever brighter.

Finally, if Carrick Felix can continue to perform at a 1st Team All Conference level, there's no doubt that Arizona State can beat any team in the conference on any given night.

A victory against UCLA on Thursday won't come close to guaranteeing the Sun Devils a tournament slotting, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

While defeating the Bruins would only make a conference semifinal appearance a certainty, that brings Arizona State one step closer to reaching their ultimate goal.

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