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ASU Basketball vs. UCLA Preview

The Bruins' worst loss of the season was an 18-point defeat at the hands of Arizona State, but it's the Sun Devils who need to work their way back into the NCAA tournament picture with a win on Wednesday night.

Jordan Bachynski is looking forward to another opportunity against UCLA.
Jordan Bachynski is looking forward to another opportunity against UCLA.
USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, the Sun Devils saw their NCAA tournament hopes flash before their eyes yet again.

Though an inspired team prepared to send their seniors out with a bang, Arizona State failed to overcome the athleticism and determination of the Washington Huskies for the second time this season.

At 20-8, the Sun Devils can attribute a quarter of their losses to a Huskies squad that has cemented itself as a middle of the road Pac-12 team.

Unfortunately for Arizona State, the Huskies are a decent team with great athleticism, and that seems to be a recipe for disaster for the maroon and gold.

DePaul, Stanford, and now Washington have frustrated Coach Herb Sendek's team in similar ways and Arizona State will have to overcome this issue if it wants to continue to contend for a bid to the big dance.

State of the Sun Devils: When Arizona State lost to the Huskies on Saturday, the team didn't just lose a game, it lost critical momentum.

The Sun Devils stunned Colorado in Boulder and looked solid against Washington State on Wednesday night, but they couldn't quite get over the hump against Washington.

A win would have given Arizona State a little breathing room, but this team knows it's now or never and the final three regular season games are practically must-win contests.

The Sun Devils can afford a loss to UCLA or Arizona as long as they make a one or two-game run in the Pac-12 tournament, but a loss to both might kill their chances at securing an NCAA tournament berth.

With the pressure mounting, the focus turns to Carrick Felix and Jahii Carson. Regardless of how much the Sun Devils have relied on the pairing this season, they'll need to ask them to pick up the slack once again.

Carson (10 points on 3-14 shooting) and Felix (Eight points and six rebounds) did not provide their usual fireworks against the Huskies, and that makes the UCLA contest all the more critical.

In the Sun Devils' 78-60 victory over UCLA in Tempe this season, Felix was phenomenal with 23 points and 11 boards while Carson engineered a great offensive attack by scoring 12 points and dishing out eight assists.

It feels like every game is of the must-win variety nowadays, but the Sun Devils could fight their way back into the tournament picture by securing a season sweep of the Bruins.

State of the Bruins: After a slow start to the season that included a shocking loss to the Cal Poly Mustangs, the Bruins have recovered quite nicely.

UCLA stands at 20-7 on the season, but unlike the Sun Devils, the Bruins appear to be on the inside of the tournament picture and looking out.

The Bruins are 10-4 in Pac-12 conference play this year, and most of their success is due to the stellar play of freshmen phenoms like Shabazz Muhammad.

The former five-star recruit has morphed into a great college player and leads his team with an average of 18.2 points per game.

Fellow freshman Jordan Adams has become an impressive contributor in his own right, and his 15.1 points per game and versatility from the off-guard position have given the Bruins a second great scoring option.

Though UCLA has won four of its last five, the Bruins will have their hands full against a Sun Devils' team that caused them all kinds of fits in Tempe earlier this year.

UCLA does not have a true center and that showed when Jordan Bachynski exploded for 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Arizona State victory. Bachynski's performance helped the Sun Devils hand the Bruins their worst loss of the season, an 18-point shellacking.

This time around, UCLA will have the advantage of playing in Pauley Pavilion, where the team has excelled this season. The Bruins might not match up well, but it's a guarantee that they will be hungry for revenge.

Matchup to Watch: Carrick Felix vs. Shabazz Muhammad

They might not guard one another for all 40 minutes, but the spurts in which this pairing plays against each other will be the most entertaining to watch.

Felix is determined after a disappointing outing on Senior Night against Washington, and Muhammad will be trying to overcome an opponent who frustrated him at times in their previous matchup.

Both players displayed their offensive prowess the last time they faced each other, and that could be a sign of things to come when these teams meet again.