Arizona State’s rapid ascent into the national scene and first-ever 10-0 start is bringing back all the diehard Sun Devils to Wells Fargo Arena, while attracting the celebrities to Tempe, too.
On Sunday, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley appeared behind the ASU student section’s Curtain of Distraction wearing a Santa suit, and ASU generally pushed as a 12-point favorite against visiting Vanderbilt displaying some defense along the way, which hasn’t necessarily been their forte.
After finishing 15-16 last season, the rise has been rapid for fifth-ranked ASU, especially after wins over Kansas, Xavier, Kansas State and San Diego State. Many rankings, polls and power ratings jumped the ‘Devils as high as 20 spots. Arizona State hasn’t been this high in the rankings in 36 years and are currently one of only four unbeaten teams left in the country. Duke losing to Boston College helped.
Senior guard Tra Holder is one of the nation’s top upperclassmen. He recently won the Pac 12 Player of the Week award two-straight weeks. The last ASU player to do so was James Harden.
Head coach Bobby Hurley, the former two-time national champion player at Duke and six-year NBA guard mostly with the Sacramento Kings, gets a lot of the attention, especially considering the Sun Devils up-tempo runs that have led them to several victories in the second half.
Six-foot-8 sophomore Romello White is the team’s most unheralded new star, but that shouldn’t be a secret for much longer. Holder is joined by fellow vets Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans, while freshman guard Remy Martin has an aged, smooth balance to his game.
The rise of the Sun Devils immediately puts the ASU-Arizona games in the heat of the conference race, which begins Dec. 30, with the desert teams now favored at the top of the class in the Pac 12.
Houston (-2, 146) vs. Providence (Wed., 4, ESPNU) at Uncasville, Conn.: The Friars come in 8-3 SU overall, but 2-8 ATS as a sure money burner, while the Cougars are 9-2 SU, but a more respectable 4-3 ATS to-date. Providence has a ‘bad’ loss at UMass and is 7-3 to the OVER. Cougars with a mediocre schedule so far and losses to lower ranks Drexel (early) and LSU (two back).
Kansas State (-9, 144) at Washington State (Wed., 5, ESPN2): Wildcats had a recegnt “bad” loss to Tulsa and despite a 9-2 SU mark are 2-6 ATS. The Cougars are 6-3 ATS (7-3 overall). Wazzou is 3-1 to the UNDER at home so far and 6-1 to the UNDER in Pullman dating back to last season. The Cougars stumbled to a three-game losing streak of late to mediocre teams UC Davis, Idaho and UTEP.
Gonzaga (-5.5, 148.5) at San Diego State (Thu., 7, CBSSN): Hard to ignore how strong Gonzaga is on the road. Bulldogs closed last season covering 11 of their last 13, but just got around to their first road contest this year, a 97-70 win and cover at wobbly Washington. ‘Zags had gone six-straight to the OVER into Monday night’s home game against IUPUI, including bizarre OT scare vs. North Dakota on Sat.
Kansas (-14, 149) at Stanford (Thu., 8, P12N): Maybe the Cardinal has found something after a couple of covers last week against Denver and San Francisco. Still they 3-8 ATS and have gone UNDER in six-straight. Stanford has played some tough teams, but has also lost to E. Washington, Portland State and, most recently, Long Beach State. KU had lost two of three into Monday’s game with Nebraska-Omaha, dropping games to Washington and hot Arizona State.
Temple (+1, 140) at Georgia (Fri., 10 a.m., SEC): Temple a steady road OVER dating back to last season with a 9-2 run to the high, while on an 0-4-1 spread run. Georgia hasn›t been too swift laying points at home dating back to last season with a 3-12 ATS run there. Jackets coming off game with UGA earlier in the week and look-ahead loss at UMass before that. Owls lost to No. 1 ‹Nova, but also to GW and at Big 5›er La Salle.
Northwestern (+8, 157) at Oklahoma (Fri., 4, ESPN2): Trae Young and the Sooners bring a seven-game win streak into this one against a veteran Northwestern team looking for respect with four losses so far. ‹Cats are true to stereotypical form at this point with a 0-6-1 run to the UNDER currently. The Sooners are 8-1 to the OVER this season. Despite OU’s 8-1 SU record, they are just 3-6 ATS.
Xavier (-5.5, 134.5) at Northern Iowa (Fri, 6, CBSSN): Nothing but love from gamblers for Xavier despite a rare fail in a 2-point win over E. Tenn. St. on Saturday. Musketeers are 9-2 ATS as well as 8-3 to the OVER. Panthers certainly respectable with losses to North Carolina, Villanova and Iowa State, while beating SMU, UNLV and N.C. State, but are just 3-3 ATS despite 8-3 overall record.
Texas (-1.5, 135.5) at Alabama (Fri., 7, ESPN2): At Birmingham, Texas long been an UNDER play for years, though this number certainly represents the considerable floor. Longhorns already 2-4-1 to the UNDER into Mon. night›s home game with Tenn. State and have losses to tough foes Duke, Gonzaga and Michigan. Alabama had lost three of five coming into Tuesday game with Mercer, losing to Minnesota, UCF and Arizona.
Tennessee (-2.5, 150.5) at Wake Forest (Sat., 9:30 a.m., ESPN2): Wake was on a 6-0-1 UNDER run heading into Monday night’s game with Coastal Carolina, but this represents the Deacons’ toughest test to-date. Vols 3-1 ATS as a favorite so far, but more notably 7-2 SU into Wed. game with Furman, losing only to Villanova and UNC, including an OT win over Purdue. UT squandered good HT lead against the Heels on Sunday as a slight home dog.
Ohio State (+8.5, 156.5) vs. North Carolina (Sat., 10:30 a.m., CBS): At New Orleans, the made-for-TV CBS Sports Classic event at Smoothie King Center has the Buckeyes, who have gone 8-2 to the UNDER this season, up against the 11-1 Tar Heels, who were impressive late in the win against Tennessee on Sunday behind Theo Pinson, Joel Berry and Kenny Williams. The Buckeyes lost to some decent teams, but already have a 2-0 conference start under their belt, so will it affect them here.
UCLA (+6.5, 159.5) vs. Kentucky (Sat., 1, CBS) at New Orleans: The CBS Sports Classic feature is a pseudo-rematch of last year›s two exciting games between these two teams, including UK›s eliminating win over the Bruins in Memphis in the NCAA Tournament last March. We know the Wildcats are different, but UCLA also has new faces, too, and are just 3-7 ATS. UK beat KU early, but really haven›t been tested much since.
Illinois (+4, 146) vs. Missouri (Sat., 5, ESPN2) at St. Louis: The Tigers only losses are to respectable foes West Virginia and Utah, but interestingly have a 3-0 spread mark at neutral site games, while Illinois is a long-time UNDER consideration dating back several years. This year is no different with a 3-7 UNDER.