Coming off a tough 2-2 stretch against ranked teams, No. 16 ASU (13-5, 4-3) returns home for what could be a much simpler weekend of opponents.
The Devils will host UCLA (9-9, 2-4) Friday at 11 a.m. and USC (11-6, 1-5) on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Friday’s game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network and can be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.
While the opponents could be simpler for the Devils, they have already learned the hard way this season not to underestimate the conference. But what does Southern California have to offer to Tempe this weekend?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: This is not the same UCLA team of year’s past.
This team is younger and has not shown their usual dominance as they have in year’s past. They no longer have their dominant point guard in Jordin Canada or high-scoring post player in Monique Billings from last season.
Still under the coaching of Cori Close, now in her eighth year with the program, she took this Bruins team to the Sweet 16 last season. This year, she looks at a mediocre overall record and a below .500 conference record.
The Devils and Bruins have already faced similar opponents in the Oregon schools and Northern California schools, but to less success for the Bruins (1-3 vs. those opponents).
The Bruins are led by sophomore Michaela Onyenwere who is averaging 16.9 points per game. The forward additionally leads the team in blocks, rebounds and shooting percentage.
After a near perfect non-conference part of the schedule, the Trojans received a slap in the face losing their first five conference games. They got their first conference win last week over rival UCLA.
The Trojans’ leading scorer is junior Minyon Moore with 14.6 points per game. She recorded a double double (12 points, 10 rebounds) last week against the Bruins.
The difficulty for USC is they will have to face Arizona prior to the Devils. If the Trojans slip against the Wildcats, it could allow ASU to even further exploit USC.
The commonality between both USC and UCLA is the scoring margin, and how small it is.
Both teams have averaged only single-digit advantages over their opponents. The margin will only get smarter if both teams get outscored by the Arizona schools.
ASU has already been upset this season by their conference rival, and surely that will be enough motivation to not allow that again this weekend.