Last week, I wrote Nick’s Picks almost assuming that ASU men's basketball’s winning streak wouldn’t survive the games against Oregon and Oregon State.
Now, after two heated matchups, the streak is up to seven. At this point, with the Sun Devils in first place in the Pac-12 after an unlikely run, it would make sense to ignore the math and the metrics and instead sit back and enjoy this streak.
Nonetheless, we’re going to try to predict the outcome of ASU’s visit to Southern California to face UCLA and USC. The composite index likes their chances of stretching the streak, so let’s get into it.
ASU v. UCLA (Thursday Feb. 27, 9 p.m. MST, Los Angeles)
When ASU hosted UCLA in Tempe, the Sun Devils dominated. Four players scored in double digits, led by junior guard Alonzo Verge Jr.’s 26 off the bench, to secure a win by 18 points.
However, it’s been a few weeks since then, and the Bruins are looking like an entirely different team. They’ve won five in a row, and seven of their last eight. If it weren’t for its loss to ASU, UCLA would be on an incredible winning streak of its own.
To put the Bruins’ resurgence into context, they have nearly twice as good a chance to beat the Sun Devils this time around than they did at the beginning of the month, even with ASU’s impressive winning streak.
So, while the composite index gives ASU just under a 70% chance to win the game, don’t be surprised if this game is close.
ASU’s biggest chance to win will come from UCLA’s lackluster 3-point defense. The Bruins rank No. 337 in opponent’s 3-point percentage. If that trend continues, ASU redshirt senior guard Rob Edwards could have a field day.
Against a similar defense in Oregon, Edwards put up 24 points and shot over 50% from behind the arc. He and other ASU sharpshooters could put ASU’s offense on a scoring pace that outdoes whatever UCLA throws at them.
I expect this to be a closely contested game with a lot of lead changes, but I agree with the composite index here. ASU should come out with a good win.
ASU: 68.14% chance to win
UCLA: 31.86% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 71, UCLA 68
ASU v. USC (Saturday Feb. 29, 6 p.m. MST, Los Angeles)
If it could manage to follow a win against UCLA with another victory against USC, ASU could potentially lock up a spot in the NCAA Tournament and start to climb to higher seeds.
Things might be just as difficult this time around. USC senior guard Jonah Mathews matched Martin’s scoring output in the last meeting. If ASU leaves him open from three, he’ll make them pay.
However, the Trojans have fallen on hard times recently. Currently, on the proverbial bubble of the NCAA Tournament, USC lost both games on its visits to Colorado and Utah. To keep its hopes alive, USC needs wins over Arizona and ASU this week. But given their recent struggles, that may not be a realistic goal.
Last time I predicted a game between these two, the composite index picked ASU, but I went around that and predicted a USC victory. I’m not going to do that this time.
ASU: 58.69% chance to win
USC: 41.31% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 68, USC 64
For those wondering, ASU enters the week with a 68.14% chance of stretching the streak to eight and a 39.99% chance of getting to nine.
Now, let’s take a look at where each team stands in the composite index.
A team's composite index is one number formed using stats and recruiting rankings from the past several years and games played this year. Read below to see specifics about how the composite index is formed.
The primary component of the composite index is a custom power index formed by statistics from previous seasons as well as recruiting rankings from the past several years. Stats are collected from Sports Reference and recruiting rankings are pulled from 247 Sports.
Essentially, stats that help a team’s success are added to the score and metrics that hurt are subtracted. This one-number scoring system makes for easy mathematical predictions for each game.
Because the current season is in progress, the system weighs recruiting rankings and stats from previous years higher than this season's numbers. As the season progresses, the composite index will weigh current statistics more and more. At this point in the season, most of the system's weight comes from this year.