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Devils face a big in-conference test: ASU-Colorado preview

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Pac-12 conference play is notoriously long, but apparently the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Colorado Buffaloes just can’t get enough of the early-season action. Sunday’s matchup between Arizona State and Colorado pits two teams whose first conference battles were incredibly hard-fought affairs that were ultimately decided in overtime thrillers.

On Wednesday night, the Utah Utes took the Sun Devils to the brink before falling to the Maroon and Gold 55-54 in an extra frame. The following evening, the Buffaloes appeared to have locked up a stunning upset over the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats at the end of regulation on a buzzer-beating three-pointer, but the referees waived the shot off and the boys from Boulder stumbled in overtime.

While the Sun Devils may have a better overall record and a one-game lead in conference play, there is no doubt that Jahii Carson and company will be the underdog against a talented Colorado squad on Sunday night.

The Buffaloes possess impressive early-season wins over the likes of Baylor and Murray State, and their resume nearly received an enormous boost on Thursday night in Tucson. Regardless of the result from their first conference game, the Buffaloes put the rest of the conference on notice and the Sun Devils know their hands will be full when Colorado comes to Tempe.

Led by four players currently averaging in the double figures, Colorado possesses offensive prowess that the Sun Devils have seen only sparingly this year. The backcourt duo of Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combines for nearly 30 points per game, and will provide a spirited matchup for Sun Devil guards Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon.

Though the Boulder appear to be the superior team on paper, the only certainty gathered from the first few nights of conference play is that plenty of games will go down to the wire.

Keys to Victory

1. Win With Guard Play

Few Pac-12 backcourts will bring the firepower quite like the Buffaloes, and Arizona State standouts Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon will have to be on top of their game for the Sun Devils to have a chance. Anything less than stellar outings from the Arizona State guards could mean a long night for the Sun Devils.

2. Never Lose Focus

Colorado held a 10-point lead over the Wildcats with as little as three minutes remaining on Thursday night. The Wildcats fought back and eventually won, albeit controversially, in overtime. Moral of the story: No lead is insurmountable.

3. Take and Make the Three-Pointer

Every Sun Devil starter not named Bachynski has the ability to light the scoreboard up from the perimeter on a nightly basis. Arizona State needs to find a hot hand early, late, and everywhere in between because Colorado scores the basketball with ease.

Matchup to Watch

Carrick Felix vs. Andre Roberson

A pair of lengthy, athletic wings go at it Sunday night in one of the more intriguing positional battles of the season. Both Felix and Roberson have the ability to spread the court away from the basket and each player can pound the ball inside when asked to do so.

Chances are if one of these two players can dominate this matchup, their respective team will have a much better shot at winning this game. Roberson might be more heralded, but the Sun Devil captain always gives his team a fighter’s chance.


Staff Predictions:

Kerry Crowley: 77-62 Colorado; Roberson MVP

Nick Krueger: 80-65 Colorado; Roberson MVP

Cammeron Neely: 80-69 Colorado; Josh Scott MVP

Evan Webeck: 82-80 ASU; Felix MVP

Alex Gallant: 76-59 Colorado; Booker MVP

Trey Lanthier: 87-63 Colorado; Roberson MVP

Cuyler Meade: 83-65 Colorado; Roberson MVP

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