The Arizona State Sun Devils are returning to Tempe an under-500 team stuck in a four-game losing streak after their toughest road trip of the season.
After dropping the last four to UCLA, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, they face the Stanford Cardinal at home. While the Cardinal won't be an easy test, this is the best chance ASU will have against the perennially strong Pac-12 team.
This year the Cardinal is creeping close to becoming a .500 team itself, while only ringing in at eighth in the Pac-12. On the other hand, Stanford is currently on a roll, winning four of its last five games with a loss to Washington splicing wins over Oregon and Washington State, and USC and UCLA.
Tip-off: 9 p.m. MST
Television: Fox Sports 1
Arizona State Update (14-15, 4-12 Pac-12):
The Sun Devils are coming off a hard-fought game against the Colorado Buffaloes where they ultimately fell 79-69 unable to pull off a late-came surge against the home team. The Sun Devils only scored two points in the game's final three minutes, giving them their fourth straight loss since beating No. 23 ranked USC at home.
Stanford Update (15-12, 8-8 Pac-12):
The Cardinal is coming off a 79-70 win over the UCLA Bruins, where they were unstoppable from the offensive side of the court. The team shot 61.2 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from behind the arc and. Guard and three-point threat Dorian Pickens also added 16 points in the win.
Keys to victory:
1. Protect the Ball:
Stanford is currently averaging 6.9 steals per game, the fourth best in the Pac-12. With ASU, it's always one step forward, two steps backwards when it comes to late-game turnovers that hand the opponent the momentum and shoot down the good initial beginnings to a run.
The Sun Devils will have to take care of the ball Thursday if they hope to avoid an end-of-game deficit where they are chasing their opponent rather than keeping the Cardinal at bay.
2. Points in the Paint:
The Cardinal had just under twice the amount of points in the paint as UCLA in its victory against the Bruins on Saturday. ASU has had trouble clogging up the lane all season, but will have to against the Cardinal who excels at muscling their big-bodied guys inside early, which also provides a bigger challenge for ASU's man-defense.
3. Contain Humphrey:
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound starting sophomore forward and Phoenix native had 24 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against UCLA, providing the force the team rallied behind in its nine-point win over the Bruins.
He is currently averaging 10.1 points per game, and 12.8 in the Cardinal's last four games. Shutting down this power forward will be crucial to the Sun Devil's success Thursday.
Prediction: ASU 79, Stanford 75