With the Arizona State University men's basketball team off to a hot start this season, it raises the question, just how good is this team?
It feels weird writing this down, but it's true: the ASU men's basketball team will win the Pac-10 championship.
The Sun Devils survived a brutal early conference schedule to stay afloat in a race that could come down to the wire. Now, destiny is in their hands.
Six more contests will determine Arizona State's fate: a road game at Washington on Feb. 26 and home games against Washington (Jan. 31), UCLA (Feb. 12), USC (Feb. 15), Arizona (Feb. 22) and California (March 7).
If the Sun Devils finish 4-2 in that stretch and take care of business in their other games, they will finish with a 14-4 conference record. In a parity-filled Pac-10, that's good enough to take the crown.
The big game is against the Bruins. Another victory gives ASU the tiebreaker and leaves UCLA very little margin for error.
When waffling on predictions, the safest thing is to pick the team with the best player. With that being said, I'm putting my faith in James Harden and Arizona State.
This must be Arizona State's year. The Pac-10 is parity-filled like no time in the past five years, with 13-5 being good enough to win this conference.
Jeff Pendergraph is gone after this season. James Harden will likely follow.
The combination of Harden, Pendergraph and the Sun Devils' defense make an NCAA tournament run easily in the realm of possibility, but there are too many factors at work to call them Pac-10 champions, namely the team still ahead of ASU.
The Sun Devils already managed an excellent win at UCLA, but the Bruins - though not as imposing as their Final Four seasons - remain the league's elite.
UCLA is Arizona State with a little more talent (outside Harden) and the Pac-10's best player at the most important position in college basketball (point guard Darren Collison).
Harden outplayed Collison last Saturday, but the Bruins will eventually outplay ASU, if only by a game.
Barring a catastrophic injury, the NCAA tournament is a foregone conclusion. The Sun Devils have enough ingredients to reach the Sweet Sixteen, but a conference crown won't happen.
But if they reach the Sweet Sixteen, who's going to care that they finished second in the Pac-10?