March is a special month for college basketball fans. The excitement of the end of the regular season eventually gives way to the pandemonium of the NCAA tournament. Given the way this season has unfolded, we could be in for something special come March Madness.
However, after a difficult weekend for ASU men’s basketball, the team enters March with some important games coming up. Washington and Washington State come to Tempe this week, and with wins in those games, ASU could finally cement their place in the tournament field.
While last week’s losses to UCLA and USC were tough, they also rendered Nick’s Picks winless for the week. It’s the first time this season that’s happened, so let’s hope we don’t make it two in a row. Here’s a look at this week’s games.
ASU v. Washington (Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. MST, Tempe, Arizona)
In the preseason, Washington was widely viewed as one of the best teams in the Pac-12 and a near lock for the NCAA Tournament.
However, after a 3-13 start to conference play, the Huskies are sure to miss out on March Madness unless they find a way to win the Pac-12 Tournament.
Washington definitely has the talent to automatically qualify for the NCAA tournament, however. The Huskies have what many considered a top-10 recruiting class from a year ago, led by freshman forward Isaiah Stewart. If the team's talented core can start putting some performances together, the Huskies could steal a bid to the tournament.
However, for this week’s ASU matchup, I would be surprised if Washington put together one of those key performances Thursday night. The Huskies are coming off their second loss to in-state rival Washington State. And with ASU needing a win, I trust them a bit more here.
The composite index isn’t much help for the predictions, however. The game is a virtual toss-up, with Washington having just over a 51% chance of winning. So, given Washington’s track record in the Pac-12 this season, I’m giving ASU the edge.
ASU: 48.44% chance to win
Washington: 51.56% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 76, Washington 73
ASU v. Washington State (Saturday, March 7, 4:30 p.m. MST, Tempe, Arizona)
When these two met in Pullman, ASU was a surefire lock to win the game, but fell victim to a 27-point double-double by sophomore forward CJ Elleby in a shocking 67-65 loss.
No ASU scorer had over 15 points in that game. During their recent winning streak, ASU got incredible scoring contributions from junior guard Remy Martin and redshirt senior guard Rob Edwards. In order for ASU to be successful, Martin and Edwards will have to put up better scoring numbers, as they did in many of their earlier wins.
Whether the Sun Devils can rack up the points needed to win remains to be seen, but unlike the Washington game, the composite index picks an overwhelming favorite here. It gives ASU nearly a 90% chance to win. I’ll take those odds.
ASU: 88.63% chance to win
Washington State: 11.37% chance to win
Prediction: ASU 81, Washington State 70
Now, let’s see where each team in the Pac-12 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.