In Sean Miller’s tenure, the Wildcats are 6-2, including a sweep last season and five wins in the last six. Arizona fans would like to think order has been restored.
"You have to be careful in making one (game) bigger than the next," Miller said of the in-state battle. "Make no mistake, we understand the significance of the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry. But we also understand the importance of being at home."
Home or road hasn’t mattered much to the Wildcats this year. No one has had their number, leaving them as one of only three unbeaten teams (Syracuse, Wichita State).
"Each game is as big as the next," said Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon. "If you take one off, you might take a loss. If you look it at that way, I don’t buy into rivalries as much."
During the Lute Olson era, this wasn’t much of a rivalry. The Wildcats were 43-6 vs. the Sun Devils, losing only once (in double overtime) in Tucson. But over the last six seasons, it’s been a 3-3 split at McKale.
UA has scheduled a "red-out" for Thursday night, encouraging fans to wear red.
"If you (normally) wear red, wear more red, and if you’ve (forgotten), please remember," Miller said, smiling.
In ASU, Miller sees a veteran opponent that won’t be easily intimidated. Point guard Jahii Carson is averaging 21.3 points per game in road games, senior center Jordan Bachyncski has an NCAA-leading 78 blocks and senior guard Jermaine Marshall, a Penn State transfer, has proven to be a capable sidekick to the talented Carson.
"When Arizona State is at their best he seems to have a big night," Miller said of Marshall. "He’s a capable scorer."
Miller said Marshall reminds him of former UA guard Mark Lyons, a veteran guard who has been through plenty of big games and moments.
"That experience is something you draw (from)," Miller said.
That goes for Bachynski, too. Last season he set a Pac-12 record with 120 blocks and is the oldest player in the league (24).
"He anchors their defense, and on offense he just picked up where he left off and is more sure of himself," Miller said. "You can’t underestimate what he (does) … They have a very good team."
Miller said he expects Arizona’s 7-foot sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski to be up for the challenge of facing Bachynski.
"One of the things Arizona State has is a veteran, older club," he said.