For fans of the Arizona State Sun Devils, this afternoon's opponent carries a little less excitement with it than the past seven games might have. And for the team itself, that is absolutely fine.
You can't (as much as Bobby Hurley might want to) play the Kentucky's and UNLV's of the world every night.
Instead, Arizona State will be getting a much-needed breather later today as 4-6 Houston Baptist comes to Wells Fargo Arena.
Tip-off: 12:30 p.m. MT
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Arizona State Update (7-3):
Despite being without the services of leading scorer and rebounder Savon Goodman, the Sun Devils bounced back from an ugly first half to pick up a commanding win at UNLV on Wednesday night. The maroon and gold outscored the Runnin Rebels 41-19 in the final 20 minutes, cruising to yet another quality victory.
Sophomore point guard Tra Holder continued his breakout season with a 19 point, nine rebound performance in Las Vegas. He is now averaging over 13 points per game for the season.
Andre Spight got the start in Goodman's place but did not have a good night, going scoreless in 17 minutes of action.
It was JC transfer Obinna Oleka, rather, that shined, playing 28 minutes and scoring six points. Goodman is expected to miss today's game as well due to personal reasons.
Houston Baptist Update (4-6):
Despite not posting a win against a Division I opponent until the month of December, Houston Baptist has managed to work its record back up to 4-6. The Huskies are currently riding a two-game winning streak, beating Arlington Baptist and UC Riverside back in Houston in the past seven days.
Their struggles have come, naturally, against power conference teams. They went to TCU last month and fell by 27, then taking a 82-57 loss at the hands of Michigan earlier this month.
Those results seem to indicate that the maroon and gold should cruise to victory in this one, but Hurley's team has shown a bad habit of playing down to its competition so far this year.
Keys to victory:
1. Limit Odunsi
The one player on the Houston Baptist roster that can really do some damage is Anthony Odunsi. The senior guard is averaging nearly 14 points per game to go along with four rebounds and 3.6 assists. The Sun Devils should be fine as long as they limit Odunsi and forces someone else to try and beat them.
2. Play their game
As we mentioned above, Arizona State has had a tendency of playing down to its lesser opponents. There was the three-point loss to Sacramento State on opening night, and then a 70-68 victory over UC Santa Barbara towards the end of November.
The Huskies will try to slow this game down and get a repeat of those performances, but ASU should be fine as long as it plays the way it has the past couple of weeks.
3. Regain some confidence
If everything goes to plan, the Sun Devils should have a relatively easy 40 minutes in this one. That will allow some of the players that have been struggling lately to regain some confidence, just in time for the final couple of nonconference tuneups.
Prediction: Arizona State - 85, Houston Baptist - 65