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ASU Basketball: Sun Devils looking to advance at Connecticut

Arizona State's NIT run starts in Storrs against the defending national champions.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tip-off: 4:00 p.m. PST

Television: ESPN2

We last saw Arizona State take the court on Wednesday afternoon in its Pac-12 Tournament opener against USC. The Sun Devils led by 14 points with nine minutes to play, but the Trojans closed the game on a 21-4 run to earn the first win for a 12 seed in the history of the conference tournament. Some thought the bad loss would bar the maroon and gold from a spot in the NIT, but low and behold, they heard their name called on Sunday evening. A new season is upon us now, and with a chance to wipe the slate clean, Herb Sendek's team will look to build some momentum towards next year and make a run in the NIT.

ASU update 17-15 (9-9):

ASU's offense has revolved around Shaquille McKissic as of late. The senior leads the team with 12 points per game, but has averaged nearly 20 a night in his last four contests. The Sun Devils are 2-2 in that stretch though, and a big part of that has been an inability to find consistent scoring options late in games. McKissic needs to step up and be that guy if they want to advance.

UConn update 20-14 (10-8):

UConn has been a very streaky team this year, a program that this time last year was getting ready to make a run through the NCAA Tournament field. The Huskies haven't had a winning streak of more than three games all season, but they have not lost more than three straight either. Multiple wins over Cincinnati and Tulsa prove that at times, this is a very talented team. But there are also some head-scratching losses in there, including one against 13-19 Houston. Connecticut is led by Ryan Boatright and Rodney Purvis, who are averaging 17.4 and 11.4 points per game, respectively. When those two struggle, however, it is a chore to find production on the offensive end of the court.

Keys to victory

1. Short memory

The maroon and gold need to put Wednesday's loss to USC completely out of their minds. Picturing themselves as the team that knocked off Arizona and one that swept Stanford and California less than two weeks ago will provide the confidence needed for going into a hostile environment like they will face at Gampel Pavilion. If they are still bemoaning would could have been in Las Vegas, things could get ugly.

2. Limit Boatright

SMU did a great job of this in Sunday's AAC title game. Boatright struggled to get open shots all day and only made one field goal as a result. His teammates eventually caught some fire and made it a game late, but the hole they were in was too big to climb out of.

3. Better coaching

It hasn't been a good week for coach Sendek. His job isn't actually in jeopardy, but plenty of fans were frustrated after he only took one timeout when the Trojans outscored ASU 19-2 in a span of eight minutes. Some better game management from the entire coaching staff will be needed if they want to improve on their 2-12 record away from home.

Prediction: Connecticut - 68, ASU - 65