San Diego Preview

Arizona State kicks off its 37th holiday tournament, the Azcentral Hoops Classic with a game against the University of San Diego Toreros Monday at 5 p.m. The game will act as a nightcap following the opening game of the classic, Winthrop versus Western Michigan, which will tip at 2:30 p.m, and can be seen locally in Phoenix on KAZ-TV.

The Toreros are winless on the road (0-7) with embarrassing losses at Utah (82-39) and UC-Santa Barbara (90-70). Arizona State is undefeated at home (4-0) despite several encounters that were closer than expected.

So on paper at least, this game looks to have all the makings of a run-away blowout, particularly in light of the fact that the Sun Devils played their best game of the year in a wipeout effort against McNeese State last week.

San Diego head coach Brad Holland has been unable to adequately replace Jason Keep and Jason Blair from last year's West Coast Conference Championship team, which made the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 18-12.

Junior College transfer Brice Vounang, a native of Cameroon who played at Eastern Oklahoma State JC last year has performed quite well, at least statistically (15.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg) but the team has suffered with consistency and cohesiveness despite his ability to replace the raw production. Even so, at 6-8 and 250 pounds he's a load.

Starting next to Vounang in the middle for the Toreros will be sophomore center Nick Lewis, who will be experiencing a homecoming of sorts as he played his high school basketball at Brophy Prep in Paradise Valley. Lewis has performed well thus far this season, following up on last year's all-WCC Tournament selection.

San Diego starts out of a three guard set with junior Mike McGrain at the point. He does a pretty decent job of distributing the basketball, but isn't much of a threat from the field, nor is he a particularly pesky on-ball defender at the point of attack.

On either side of McGrain the Toreros go with 6-2 sharpshooter Brad Lechtenberg and arguably the team's most athletic wing, 6-4 Michael Hubbard. Brett Melton is a 6-5 three-point specialist who comes off the bench and spells either starter.

The only other player who garners consistent minutes off the bench for San Diego is 6-8 Brandon Gay, a newly eligible transfer who has played in six of the team's games. Gay is a pure scorer with a variety of face up and back-to-the-basket moves. When the team gets into serious foul trouble, Abdou Sane, a 6-9 senior from Senegal provides a body.

More than anything, this should be a golden opportunity for the Sun Devils to continue to coalesce and improve in the all-important period of time between school semesters in advance of next week's Pac-10 opener against Arizona on Saturday.

The Sun Devils may play in a close ballgame in this year's Holiday Classic, but it won't be on Monday night.

Prediction: Arizona State 80 San Diego 59

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