ASU men's basketball has the biggest game of its regular season coming up against the University of Washington on Saturday. While the Huskies lead the Pac-12 with an undefeated conference record, any hopes of a Sun Devil conference title are hinged on this matchup.
The Sun Devils come into the game as arguably one of the more well-rounded teams in the Pac-12. ASU is first in the conference in scoring, second in opposing field-goal percentage and second in rebounding.
However, Washington has the best defense in the Pac-12, holding teams to 64.2 points per game and holding teams to just 40 percent shooting from the field.
A large part of UW's tenacity on defense is due to senior guard Matisse Thybulle's defensive play. Thybulle currently averages over three steals and two blocks per game — making him the only player to simultaneously hold both statistics.
Yes, you read that correctly: He is a 6 foot, 5 inch guard who averages two blocks a game.
The Sun Devils will also have to stop sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, who leads the Huskies in scoring with 16.6 points per game. Nowell is also an excellent shooter, averaging a scorching 45 percent from three-point land.
If ASU coach Bobby Hurley can devise a scheme that cracks the Huskies' defense, the Sun Devils can come out with a win.
However, in order to win the conference, the Sun Devils are going to need a bit of help.
The Huskies have a favorable schedule to end the season. According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, they're favored to win every game except the ones against the Arizona schools. That includes games versus Oregon State University and the University of Southern California, who are both 6-3 in Pac-12 play.
The two aforementioned teams and ASU currently hold a three-way tie for second in the conference.
USC boasts one of the best offenses in the Pac-12, averaging above 77 points per-game and shooting 37 percent from three.
Oregon State is home to one of the best defenses in the conference, allowing teams to score just 68.8 points per game and holding teams to shooting 41 percent from the field.
Teams such as UA, Oregon State and USC will need to beat UW in order to keep ASU's chances alive.
If there's a loss to the Huskies, ASU will almost certainly see its title hopes slip away.
Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.