Who: Utah Utes (8-9, 1-6) at Arizona State Sun Devils (5-9, 1-3)
When: Monday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m. Arizona time
Where: Desert Financial Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
Line (Via SI Sportsbook): Arizona State (-2)
Arizona State's return to the court didn't go as planned on Saturday, as a 75-57 loss to Colorado exposed many of ASU's fears after an extended absence from the court due to COVID.
The Sun Devils struggled to shoot, rebound, and flat-out found themselves gassed in the conditioning department following a program-wide COVID outbreak.
"The guys, I think they wanted to play, they were juiced about playing because it's been so long," Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley said. "We just ... we didn't have a lot of gas in the tank in the second half."
The performance, all things considered, was somewhat understandable given the circumstances that surrounded ASU.
However, the daunting schedule for a college basketball team marches on, especially one that has had numerous games postponed to a later date.
A loaded schedule down the stretch awaits the Sun Devils, as their next opportunity comes in a home meeting with the Utah Utes on Monday afternoon.
After beginning the season at 5-0, the Utes have seen their Pac-12 schedule diminish their strong start. The Utes have lost their last five games heading into Monday and have won just three of their last 12 games.
As a team, Utah is shooting just 42.5% from the field, while converting only 33.4% from three-point range.
However, the Utes are the Pac-12's top team in free throws, converting 79.5% of their opportunities. That could prove pivotal down the stretch in a close game.
Utah ranks last in the Pac-12 in steals per game at 4.18, while Arizona State is third with an average of 6.50.
The Utes are led by center Branden Carlson, who averages 13.5 points per contest along with 6.4 rebounds. Carlson's 2.1 blocks per game are behind Arizona's Christian Koloko (3.3) for the Pac-12 lead.
Despite ASU's recent struggles, ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives the Sun Devils a 68.4% chance to defeat Utah.
Time will tell if Arizona State can return to their winning ways. However, they won't get many better opportunities to right the ship outside of playing Utah at home.