Basketball is a tournament sport. For Arizona State (12-12, 4-7 Pac-12), that tournament is approaching next week in Las Vegas, NV. However, Its seeding is still not set in stone as the Sun Devils host USC (11-14, 4-11) and UCLA (11-11, 6-8) this upcoming weekend for their final games of the regular season.
At this time two weeks ago, ASU was considered to be a team “on the bubble” of making the field of 68 as an at-large bid. After dropping both games to the Washington schools, that bubble has popped and now they have to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to get an automatic bid to March Madness.
The Sun Devils currently sit at the nine seed in the Pac-12. If the season ended today they would play UCLA (the eight seed), with the winner matching up with the one-seeded Stanford Cardinal (who are ranked No. 2 nationally as well).
Now stick with me here.
In order to move up in the standings, ASU would need sweep the weekend, Oregon State (who plays Colorado and Utah) needs to drop both games and UCLA to lose both this weekend (they travel to Arizona on Thursday).
First and foremost, the Sun Devils have to take care of their own business against the Trojans and Bruins.
Thursday night, ASU needs to control the boards. USC is top-four in the conference in rebounding and lead the conference in blocks per game (6.4).
Jordyn Jenkins is the player to watch. In conference play, she has the second-most points per game (17.9) and rebounds hauled in (109). The 6-2 sophomore will be challenging a Sun Devil front court whose depth is dwindling.
Starting forward Jayde Van Hyfte will not return to the hardwood this season after an injury that occurred during the Washington State game. Maggies Besselink has also been in and out of the lineup throughout the season.
Stepping into the starting role was sophomore forward Katelyn Levings. Levings has proven some growth from beyond the arc. In the team’s least game against Washington, Levings drilled 4-5 from three-point land and had a career high 14 points. It is important to note that Levings was 3-25 from three all of last year.
On Saturday afternoon, the Bruins will come to Tempe in a showdown of two top-three scorers in the conference. Charisma Osborne (17.1 ppg) and Jade Loville (16.5 ppg) will be going head-to-head for the first time this year.
At Pauley Pavillion last year, Osborne dropped 27 points against the Sun Devils that led to a UCLA win. Both teams are different than they were a year ago. UCLA is not a regular in the AP poll this season. In fact, they are only 0.5 games up on ASU in the conference standings.
Another thing the Sun Devils have in this matchup different from last year is a go-to bucket in Jade Loville. In her debut season for the Sun Devils, Loville has posted seven games of 20 or more points (two of them she went for 30-plus).
Loville has given Arizona State a much-needed offensive boost from the last time ASU matched up with both of these teams, as it is their first meetings this season.
The game against USC will be Thursday night at 5 p.m. local time and UCLA will be a Saturday afternoon matinee slated for 12 p.m. tip-off.