For ASU, the non-conference schedule had its challenges and the Devils youth was certainly exposed on more than one occasion but we could all look back after this season is over and be thankful of the 11-game trial run before the season truly began. With three seniors leading the way, the surprise star of the first half has been Trent Lockett who has emerged as a go-to scorer with a penchant for getting to the rack. One thing the Devils need to improve upon is getting to the charity stripe. Only South Carolina has gotten to the free throw line less than ASU among the six power conferences.
Head Coach: Craig Robinson (64-64) vs. Herb Sendek (337-217)
G – Roberto Nelson – (8.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG) vs. Trent Lockett (14.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG)
Former ASU commit, Cunningham is the floor general for OSU and while his offensive game is of the shoot-first mindset, he is an excellent defensive player that is among the nation's leaders in steals per game. Joining him is Calvin Haynes, a strong scorer that has really struggled to find his stroke in the early going. On the other side, Roberto Nelson is the best recruit to choose Oregon State in two decades and is finally on the floor after being sidelined with eligibility issues. He may not get the starting nod if OSU chooses to go big but he will see plenty of action and could prove to be the Beavers best player as the season progresses. Lathen Wallace is another wing who will see considerable minutes while Ahmad Starks is a nice shooter off the pine.
As for the Devils, the meat and potatoes of the offense comes from the backcourt. McMillan is a very steady leader on both ends with a history of owning Oregon State (his two highest scoring games came against OSU). Next to him is the tandem of Abbott and Lockett and they are really starting to click together. Lockett is a pure slasher who seemingly has no trouble getting to the bucket while Abbott is very good with his inside-out approach. Off the bench, expect to see Brandon Dunson relieve McMillan while Keala King and Carrick Felix will get some run as well.
Edge – ASU
Oregon State has a bevy of big men at their disposal which makes the rebounding woes so befuddling. With Johnson and Brandt as the likely starters, Joe Burton and Devon Collier will also see time. Johnson is a good post presence and easily the best rebounder on the team. Brandt is an Australian import who will get better as he starts to bulk up. Burton and Collier are big bodies that provide steady relief. Only Johnson is sure to be in the starting five each night while the other guys have rotated evenly throughout the first half of the year.
The Sun Devils struck gold in the late signing period when they netted Kyle Cain from the east coast. A solid rebounder with a nice lefty touch, Cain has provided some toughness that the Devils have severely lacked. At the other post position, Kuksiks somewhat surprisingly returned to the team after considering leaving for a professional career in Europe struggled in the first few games but has found his signature stroke and has even shown flashes of attacking the basket a little more. ASU will bring in Ruslan Pateev and Jordan Bachynski to relieve Cain while Chanse Creekmur will spell Kuksiks.
Edge – ASU
The Road. Maybe the most underrated statistic for the Sun Devils under Herb Sendek is that they are a pretty steady team on the road. In each of the past two seasons, ASU has had a winning road-record in conference play. Heading into Corvallis is hardly as intimidating as trips to New Mexico or Baylor but this is still a good test for a very young team. If the Devils can find comfort in a foreign arena, it will be ugly for Oregon State but the Beavers best hope is that they can catch a jittery team by surprise.
Who Will Win and Why
The first 11 games were frustrating as ASU didn't really find its identity but the new guys are starting gel while the veterans are finding their rhythm on offense. Opening on the road against the conference's worst team is a generous start but the Devils need to execute on both ends, control the ball and dictate the tempo to leave Corvallis with a victory.
Final Score: Arizona State 66 Oregon State 58