Tip off: 10 p.m. MT
While NCAA Tournament hopes are still grim, there is something to be said about effort and putting your best foot forward. The Sun Devils are currently playing their hearts out, and it's paying dividends on the court with the maroon and gold now winners of two straight conference games. They'll try to extend that streak to three contests late Saturday night against Stanford.
ASU update 10-9 (2-4):
The Sun Devils took it to Cal Thursday night, playing their best game of the conference season so far. ASU held the Bears scoreless for over 13 minutes as it went on a 22-0 run to lead 34-13 at halftime. More sharp shooting allowed the maroon and gold to shoot over 45 percent from the field and three on the night. The Sun Devils went on to win 79-44 with career highs in points from Bo Barnes (17) and Kodi Justice (16). It was the second highest conference road winning margin for the program in school history, the highest coming all the way back in 1979, also against Cal. Shaquielle McKissic and Gerry Blakes are tied for the lead in points with 10.6. Eric Jacobsen (6.6) has the edge in rebounding.
Stanford update 13-5 (4-2):
The preseason expectation was that Stanford would be a solid team, led by plenty of experience, and the Cardinal have lived up to that so far. Their losses come to No. 4 Duke in the early going,an ugly loss at Depaul, at BYU, and two conference losses to UCLA and No. 7 Arizona. 6-foot-2 senior guard Chasson Randle is one of the best players in college basketball and averaging 20.2 points per game. Anthony Brown, a 6-foot-6 fifth year senior is averaging 15.5 points and 6-foot-11 big man Stefan Nastic isn't far behind at 13.7 points per game.
Keys to victory
1. Ball movement
One of the bigger reasons ASU had success against Cal is they never let the ball stick inside or out. They continuously moved it around with success and found open shots everywhere on the court, but especially from outside the arc. They didn't settle in the second half and Justice and Barnes had more success after Jacobsen was physical down low in the first frame and Cal adjusted accordingly. The Sun Devils simply readjusted.
2. Paint physicality
Eric Jacobsen had tremendous success against David Kravish, seemingly backing him down with ease multiple times. When he missed, ASU still did a good job crashing the boards on the back side or grabbing 50-50 balls off the rim. At 245 pounds, it won't be nearly as easy to move Stefan Nastic. Even if the Sun Devils don't have success there Saturday, they still need to develop a presence in order to find open shots.
Gerry Blakes struggled against Delon Wright of Utah and Randle is on the same level if not better than Wright when it comes to best guards in the Pac-12. Justice is coming off his best performance and Tra Holder has also settled down and played within himself lately. The reason ASU has beaten Stanford recently is because the Sun Devils had great matchups with Jordan Bachynski, Jahii Carson and Jermaine Marshall. That's not the case anymore. Herb Sendek will need to find answers elsewhere and the difference could be in starting the right player at guard.
It has been a crazy start to the Pac-12 season and no way I could have predicted an ASU victory by that margin over Cal. While Stanford has a loss to DePaul and UCLA under their belt, I think ASU is catching them at the wrong time after a loss to Arizona. Johnny Dawkins will have his group prepared well. The Sun Devils playing with more confidence will make this game closer but it won't be enough.
Prediction: Stanford- 82 ASU-73