Nebraska Preview

Arizona State travels to Lincoln, Nebraska for its first road game of the year against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, on Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. (MST). DevilsDigest previews the game, which will not be televised, but will be streamed on the Internet via Nebraska's official website,

Projected Starters: Nebraska (2-0)

Nate Johnson, 6-2, 190 Sr.
Jake Muhleisen, 6-4, 200 Jr.
Corey Simms, 6-5, 205 Jr.
Andrew Drevo, 6-8, 250 Sr.
John Turek, 6-9, 240 Jr.

Projected Starters: Arizona State (3-0)

Jason Braxton, 6-2, 190 Jr.
Tron Smith, 6-2, 195 Fr.
Steve Moore, 6-4, 205 Jr.
Will Fameni, 6-7, 230 Fr.
Ike Diogu, 6-8, 250 So.

Three straight ain't so great. Arizona State, undefeated through three games for the first time in the Rob Evans era, has largely underperformed in long stretches of each contest against supposedly inferior foes.

First halves have been played by this Arizona State squad, but never with any real sense of pride or tenacity, and three consecutive mid-major opponents have pushed the Sun Devils into second stanzas with outcomes still entirely in doubt.

This imperfect and yet unblemished incongruous start to the season will come to an end, one way or another, in all likelihood, on Wednesday. Either the Sun Devils will come to play in the first half and give themselves a chance to win their first ballgame of the season on the road, or the team will come out flat, yet again, and lose.

A portion of the early-season struggles for Arizona State can be attributed to the need to integrate eight new players. Rob Evans has been working with a variety of lineups in these first three games and the implementation of the full compliment of offensive and defensive sets has been a slow and deliberate process.

Against Nebraska, expect the Sun Devils to tighten the bench in an almost imperceptible fashion. Players such Keith Wooden, Allen Morill, Kenny Crandall and Kevin Kruger will be on even tighter leashes than before with regard to playing time.

Wilfried Fameni has established himself as a teammate who plays with more maturity than his experience would otherwise indicate and he should start alongside Ike Diogu.

Jason Braxton and Steve Moore will be two of the starting backcourt mainstays throughout the season and it appears that the other spot is up for grabs with a multitude of options. Tron Smith and Jamal Hill are the most likely candidates and both will certainly play a lot, but Serge Angounou is expected back in a matter of weeks and he will figure into the mix as well at some point.

The Cornhuskers utilize what is essentially a three-guard lineup with all five starters returning from a squad that finished 11-19 last season, including a 0-10 record on the road. One of those road losses was to Arizona State, by a score of 75-63 in the Holiday Classic. In that game, Ike Diogu had 21 points and 7 rebounds.

Senior Nate Johnson is the second leading returning scorer on the Nebraska roster and considered more of a "points" guard than a point guard. He'll run the show and likes to create shots for himself. Johnson missed the team's second game of the year with an illness and 5-8 freshman guard Charles Richardson, a defensive specialist, took his place, and played well.

On the wing, veterans Jake Muhleisen and Corey Simms play the bulk of the minutes. Muhleisen is the team's best shooter, and he does a great job, especially from mid-range. Outside the stripe he's more of a catch-and-shoot player. Simms is a dynamic athlete who likes slashing to the hoop and rebounding the basketball. He rarely shoots from long-range.

It will likely be in the painted area where the Sun Devils are tested most, at least on their defensive end. Nebraska has two very talented players on its front line in John Turek and Andrew Drevo. Turek is the most consistent at both ends. He's a workmanlike post player who does a great job on the glass and in the post defensively and he can score and rebound effectively inside.

Andrew Drevo is more of a versatile offensive-minded weapon, and he actually led the team in scoring last year but has underperformed thus far this season. He has great range and loves to face up and shoot the deep ball. He's less of a threat on the low block, but still a player defenses should be aware of at all times at the offensive end.

The Cornhuskers do most of their damage on the defensive end and like to create easy scoring opportunities off of turnovers generated by their aggressive man-to-man defense. Offensively they grind out ballgames by patiently waiting for high-percentage shots. They aren't a team that is particularly reliant on long-range shooting, though Johnson, Muhleinsen, Drevo and 6-11 forward Brian Conklin can all make it from beyond the arc.

For the Sun Devils to win, they'll need to do a better job defensively in transition and in the interior and come to play with a greater sense of purpose and immediacy from the opening tip. Getting rattled on the offensive end and becoming impatient with shot selection could prove to be a fatal flaw in what looks to have all the makings of a close game.

Prediction: Arizona State 69 Nebraska 67

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