The 2015-16 basketball season is now 31 games old, and only the Pac-12 tournament remains for the Arizona State Sun Devils before Selection Sunday comes later this week.
The team's tournament run will start late tonight against the Oregon State Beavers, with the winner clinching a spot in Thursday's quarterfinal round. Arizona State dominated the last, and only, meeting between the two teams this season - an 86-68 win for Bobby Hurley's team back on Jan. 28 at Wells Fargo Arena.
Below is your full game preview for tonight's rematch between the two teams.
Tipoff: 9:40 p.m. MT (approximately)
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Oregon State Update
Wayne Tinkle's squad comes to Las Vegas with the conference's six seed - its highest seed since the 2010 tournament. Oregon State currently sits at 18-11 (9-9 Pac-12) and is coming off a thrilling four-point win last Saturday at UCLA. The Beavers are squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and a win tonight could lock up their first bid to the Big Dance since 1990.
They are led by do-everything senior Gary Payton II. The point guard is averaging 15.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and leads the team in both of those categories. He picked up his second consecutive Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honor earlier this week and will surely make life tough for Hurley's offense.
Arizona State Update
The Sun Devils come into the Pac-12 Tournament as healthy as they have been all season, which bodes well for a team needing to make a deep run. They are coming off a home split of the Bay Area schools last weekend - posting a blowout win against Stanford on Thursday before dropping a heartbreaker to California two days later. The emergence of a pair of big men, Savon Goodman and Eric Jacobsen, has keyed the team's improved play as of late.
ASU's goals this week this simple, but not easy. Four wins in four nights will give them the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while two victories could be enough to send them to their second straight NIT appearance. Anything less and their season will end this week on the floor of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Keys to the Game
1. Holder's defense: A superb defensive effort from point guard Tra Holder held Payton to his second worst game ever when these two teams met back in January. Payton was frustrated the entire game and ended up with just two points by the time the night was over. If Holder can replicate that performance - or just come close to it - the maroon and gold will have a great chance at springing the upset.
2. Finish strong: A head-scratching, late game collapse doomed Herb Sendek and company in last year's first round game of the Pac-12 Tournament. A good portion of that team is still on the roster this season, and they will need to have a short memory when it comes to flashbacks of that disaster against USC. Playing a strong 40 minutes, whether they are playing from behind or with a lead, is a huge key in this one.
3. Let Jacobsen work: Jacobsen finally appears to be fully healthy for the first time since December, and the senior center is playing like it. He has been more confident on the offensive end of the floor and his prowess on the boards is as strong as ever. He is definitely making the most of his last few games as a Sun Devil, and he should get ample opportunity to continue that strong play on Wednesday against the Beavers. Feed the hot hand until it stops working.
Prediction: Oregon State 75, Arizona State 70