First a riddle: What is orange and blue and hapless all over? Answer: The Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team.
After a 17-point loss to Northern Arizona on Friday night in Flagstaff, the Titans of Cal State Fullerton make the one hundred and fifty mile trek south on Interstate-17 to the Valley of the Sun, where it doesn't get any easier.
There will finally be a one-man team playing in Wells Fargo Arena on Monday night, but it won't be the Sun Devils, who demonstrated as much in Saturday's opener versus Arkansas-Little Rock with 26 points from newcomer Steve Moore.
Rather, the one-man team will be the visiting blue-clad Titans, which boasts 6-10 Senegalese center Pape Sow (pronounced Pop SOH) as the team's single consistent offensive weapon. Sow averaged a near-double-double last season (13.8 points, 8.8 rebounds) as the team stumbled to a 10-18 record, including a below .500% finish (8-10) in the mediocre Big West Conference.
Sow is a physically imposing player, among the best at his position in the West and must be taken seriously by the Sun Devils. After that however, Cal State Fullerton is virtually devoid of players capable of hurting Arizona State at its defensive end, particularly in the frontcourt.
Surprisingly thin in the middle, Fullerton has only one other player taller than 6-7 on the roster and that player, Bobacar Camara, was hospitalized in Flagstaff on Friday with food poisoning. Camara, also from Senegal, is questionable to play on Monday, but even if he is available, it likely won't make much of a difference for the Titans. He played only a limited role in the team's two exhibition games earlier this month.
The Titans will likely start 6-7 Anthony Bolton and 6-5 Hardy Asprilla in the frontcourt alongside Sow. Bolton, the team's second leading returning scorer and greatest three-point threat is essentially a perimeter player. At 190 pounds he's not particularly equipped to handle an assignment such as Keith Wooden on the defensive end. Asprilla is shorter, stockier and more physical in his play, but he would be seriously undersized against Wooden or any other Sun Devil thrown at him for that matter.
This size discrepancy is something Arizona State must exploit early and often with whomever is guarding Wooden. In addition, Ike Diogu's knack for getting to the free throw line could push Sow into foul trouble early, and turn what little chance the Titans have in this game into no chance at all.
The only other two frontcourt players likely to see significant floor minutes are Yaphett King, a 6-4 junior college transfer known for his rugged interior play, and Brian Pruitt, a 6-5 junior college transfer. Neither has done much to establish himself as a consistent weapon for this team, though both will assuredly be called upon since Fullerton has few options.
Projected Starting Lineups:
PG: Jason Braxton, 6-3, 190 Jr.
SG: Tron Smith, 6-2, 195 Fr.
SF: Steve Moore, 6-4, 190 Jr.
PF: Ike Diogu, 6-8, 250 So.
C: Keith Wooden, 6-9, 220 Fr.
Cal State Fullerton:
PG: Bobby Brown, 6-1, 170 Fr.
SG: Derick Andrew, 6-2, 180 Sr.
SF: Anthony Bolton, 6-7, 190 Sr.
PF: Hardy Asprilla, 6-5, 225 Jr.
C: Pape Sow, 6-10, 250 Sr.
There are more players, at least in number, to be found in the Cal State Fullerton backcourt. However, unfortunately for the Titans none of these players are particularly distinguished either.
The point guard position has been a battle, with senior Zekee Smith having a difficult time holding off freshman Bobby Brown. The starting point guard last season for a tremendous Westchester (CA) high school team, Brown is athletic and loves to shoot the deep ball.
On the wing, 6-2 senior Derick Andrew is a returning starter who averaged 9.6 points last season. Junior College transfer David Warsaw had been the primary back-up for Andrew, but he injured an ankle in pre-game preparations on Friday in Flagstaff and is questionable for Monday's game.
More than anything, this contest should be an opportunity for the Sun Devils to see how capable they are at blowing out lesser caliber opponents. In the three games thus far this season (including exhibition games) Arizona State has played down to its opponent in the first half before pulling away after intermission.
Good teams generally dominate a lesser opponent, such as Cal State Fullerton, whether it's early, late or anywhere in-between and do so without any let up. In this game, Arizona State should have no problem dispatching of the Titans, and anything less than a blowout should be looked upon as a disappointment.
Prediction: Arizona State 92 Cal State Fullerton 64
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