First, they must go through the sixth-seeded Oregon Ducks, who are coming off a convincing win of their own on Thursday night when they took down the third-seeded Utah Utes 66-54.
The matchup between ASU and Oregon pits possibly the two hottest teams in the conference against each other. Oregon began their Pac-12 season with back-to-back losses against the Oregon State Beavers and UCLA, but have picked up steam heading into tonight's game as winners of six in a row.
ASU on the other hand is no slouch, as they too have found recent success with victories in six of their last seven contests. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, that one loss came on February 28 to these same Ducks.
ASU’s first meeting with Oregon came on January 19 in Tempe, when five different Sun Devils scored in the double-digits en route to a 78-64 victory.
Redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham led the way for ASU with a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds, including a thunderous baseline slam over Ducks forward Kenny Wooten. The dunk was later called by coach Bobby Hurley a “statement-type” play, and helped the Sun Devils put together a 19-0 second half run that would eventually be too much for Oregon to overcome.
ASU’s second matchup with the Ducks went vastly different, as the Sun Devils submitted possibly their worst shooting performance of the season in an embarrassing 79-51 loss.
Neither freshman guard Luguentz Dort nor sophomore guard Remy Martin played their strongest game, as the two combined to go 7-25 from the field and 3-11 from three for a joint total of 20 points. Similar to the two teams' first matchup, the home team took control of the contest thanks to a devastating double-digit run, as the Ducks used a 14-0 run that spanned from the end of the first half to the middle of the second to eventually emerge victorious.
For the Sun Devils to improve to 2-1 against the Ducks this season, it begins with slowing down Oregon guard Payton Pritchard.
The junior guard is only averaging a little over 12 points on the season, yet in his two matchups against ASU this season Pritchard has scored 20 and 18 points respectively.
He is the engine that makes the Oregon offense go, and his ability to elevate his teammates is often a deciding factor in most contests.
Dort will likely begin the game guarding Pritchard, and while Dort is unquestionably one of the best defenders in the conference and a deserving member of the Pac-12 first team all-defense, Pritchard has given the freshman real trouble in the team’s last two meetings.
The matchup between the two will certainly be one to watch Friday as both teams look to earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.
With a chance to play for the Pac-12 title on the line, ASU and Oregon’s third matchup of the season figures to be their best. With the winner facing off against the winner of the tournament’s other semifinal matchup between the Washington Huskies and Colorado Buffs, Friday’s matchup promises to be one for the ages.