Pac-10 Men's Basketball Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

TwistNHook:  Well, what should we expect out of the Arizona St. Sun Devils this year?

They just took on a tough Baylor team and jumped out to an early lead:

Rihards Kuksiks hit consecutive 3-pointers for Arizona State (3-3) in the opening minute of the second half to tie the game at 33. Dunn responded with a 3-pointer, the first of his two in a 7-2 run that put the Bears ahead to stay.

However, Baylor overpowered the SunDevils and ended up solidly defeating them. 

Ragnarok:  Didn't the Sun Devils also lose to New Mexico, a team the Bears handled quite easily at home?

Kodiak:  ASU did lose to New Mexico, but on the road.  As we all know, for a young team there's a huge difference between road and home...Plus, the Pit is a daunting place to play.

In many ways, ASU is similar to us - a few returning players backed by a heralded recruiting class.  Their veterans are pretty solid. The senior Jamelle McMillan steps in as their new PG, and he's well-known for his leadership.  Senior Ty Abbott is a proven scorer at shooting guard, and senior Rihards Kuksiks is a versatile scoring forward.  Sophomore Trent Lockett was all-Pac-10 as a frosh, and provides toughness and athleticism.  Where they'll be up/down is relying on their young guys to fill out the lineup and provide depth.  However, their recruiting class was rated #7 in the country and includes Keala King (8th SG recruit nationally), and Carrick Felix (JC transfer who originally signed w/ Duke).  They don't have a lot of experienced size, and that's one edge we'll need to exploit.  However, they do play a pesky match-up zone so our guys are going to have to learn quickly how to move the ball inside.

Herb Sendek is a proven coach.  These guys will probably be pretty tough all year, especially later in the year.  I think we have a good shot taking them at home in early Feb.(if our outside shots are falling and our ball movement improves)  Going to be real tough sledding at their place towards the end of the year.

AvinashHere are some stats on ASU.

They're a horrible free throw shooting team, not even making 60% (331st), and they barely shoot free throws to begin with one of the lowest FTA/FGA percentages in college basketball.
They're a horrible three point shooting team, barely hovering over 30% (260th)
Yet they're a good two point shooting team at 52.3% (44th). I'd have to guess they're adept at scoring long twos with Abbott, Kuksiks and Lockett.

They haven't been gifted an easy start to the season. Their opening loss at New Mexico wasn't an easy start to the season, and St. John's, Baylor and Richmond are all ranked in the top 40 of the the Pomeroy rankings. These are good teams they're losing to, and I think they'll come out after a lackluster nonconference season and slowly but surely start racking up the wins.

We shut them down at Haas last year to clinch the Pac-10. Can we do it again? Their perimeter experience doesn't bode well against our perimeter defensive inexperience...

How do people think we matchup with them? ASU is a strong perimeter shooting team, but doesn't have great big men. Do you think the strong wing play of the Sun Devils can take advantage of our inexperience?

TwistNHook:  ASU has had a rough start to the year, but has also played some tough teams to start things out:

The advantage to playing a tough non-conference schedule is that it helps down the road, as a team enters conference action and beyond.

The potential downside is that it doesn't offer much time to sort through growing pains.

That's where Arizona State finds itself coming off Sunday's 67-61 loss to Richmond at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils, with seven newcomers, have played four teams ranked in the top 43 of the Sagarin college-basketball computer rating

They've lost all four, dropping to 3-4, their worst start after seven games since they were 3-4 in 1998-99 under then-first-year coach Rob Evans.

"We're playing some veteran, very successful programs here early in the season, and we have not been good enough to win," ASU coach Herb Sendek said.

 

Kodiak:   Ty Abott is their best player, but I think he's been a little slow coming back from injury.  Lockett is a tough cover because of his strength.  Jorge could check either of them, but then one of the frosh or Smith has to check the other - and that's tricky.  Kuksiks could be the toughest matchup because of his ability to step out and shoot from deep.  We've seen Kamp have trouble chasing guys out to the perimeter, and both Solomon and Bak Bak are still learning where to be on defense.  I suspect that we'll give up a lot of outside shots - I'm a little surprised that their 3 pt percentage is so low.  Where we can't let them beat us with easy baskets - they have a lot of young players who are more athletic than skilled right now.  So, have to get back in transition and protect the glass.  Fortunately, our defense rebounding is usually pretty solid. 

On offense, it depends on how quickly ASU's young players learn how to play that pesky match-up zone.  Our ball movement has been hit or miss.  If we can't get the ball to our bigs, we won't be able to exploit our post advantage.

NorCalNick:   I've felt like ASU over the last couple of years, more than most other teams, really lives and dies by the 3.  Last year it was Kuksiks and Glasser, this year it's Kuksiks and Abbot.  As Avi points out, they've been dying by the 3 so far this year - Abbot and Kuksiks are at about 36% behind the arc and nobody else is hitting them.  Both can really fall in love with launching it from deep (66% of Abbot's shots are 3's, and 80%(!) of Kuksik's are 3's), often I think to the detriment of their offense.  Occasionally Kuksiks will be red hot and really punish you, but more often than not it will kill a possession.

So I guess the question is how long until ASU's inexperienced bigs can step up.  By the looks of their early results, it may not be until next year.  If that's the case I think this is a team Cal could sweep, but a win in Tempe would still be a tough get.

What are your thoughts on ASU?  Leave them in the comments!

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