Stanford Preview

When it was long over and done with and only the scent of Arizona's spent firepower remained in Wells Fargo Arena, Rob Evans lobbed forth the only grenade remaining in his arsenal – a verbal one.

"The team we play next (Stanford) is better than this team," he said in his post game remarks.

It was a weak and pathetic sounding final salvo to be sure considering the manner in which his team had just lost to the Wildcats, but one that wasn't entirely hollow all the same.

Indeed, the faceless architects of the conference's scheduling did Arizona State no favors this year as it set the school up with back-to-back home games against the two clear front-runners in the Pac-10 to start the season.

Often times in the world of sports things get worse before they get better and if Evans' statement about Stanford being better than Arizona proves to be true, there is little reason to expect a different outcome.

The frightening thing about Stanford's undefeated 11-0 run to start the season is that it has been largely accomplished without the services of its best player, Josh Childress, who sat out until last week's Pac-10 opener with a stress reaction in his foot.

The move by Childress was largely a precautionary measure so as to avoid a possible stress fracture. Now however, Childress is back and with his length and tremendous versatility he'll be a difficult outside-inside match-up for Arizona State at both ends and on the glass.

For the first time ever in a collegiate game that actually counts, Serge Angounou will suit-up for the Sun Devils after more than a year spend off the court rehabilitating a serious knee injury. You can expect he'll be asked to guard Childress, and any and every other team's star forward from this point forward.

Welcome to the Pac-10, Mr. Angounou.

He probably won't get the starting nod just yet. That honor will stay with Allen Morill who should also spend a good deal of his time on the floor defending Childress. He's not as long or as quick as Angounou but Morill works hard and he will certainly take the assignment to heart.

One virtual certainty is that in this ball game Arizona State will go big to start and stay with a more sizeable lineup throughout larger stretches of this game. Stanford has one of the bigger frontlines in the Pac-10 with 6-10 Rob Littleand 6-9 Justin Davis starting alongside Childress.

When Tron Smith went down with a broken nose several weeks ago Evans turned to Morill to replace him in the starting lineup, where he took a place alongside of the already-starting Wilfried Fameni and Ike Diogu. Eventually Angounou will challenge for the spot of either Fameni or Morill, but probably not immediately.

The starting frontcourt trio along with Keith Wooden, Angounou and possibly Justin Allen will be called upon to deal with Stanford's propensity to overwhelm opponents on the glass at both ends of the floor and in the defensive interior. The battle for the painted area will undoubtedly be of key importance in the outcome of this ball game.

Making the Cardinal all the more dangerous is the fact that on any given night as many as seven or eight players are capable of leading the team in scoring. Point guard Chris Hernandez, shooting guard Matt Lottich, wings Nick Robinson and Dan Grunfeld and post player Matt Haryasz are each capable of pacing Stanford and have done so already on the short season.

With so many weapons at his disposal, Stanford coach Mike Montgomery has the ability to move in a variety of different ways. His teams are generally tremendously successful and efficient in the half-court sets. He runs a lot of plays involving running shooters off of screens and all of the players that see a lot of time on the perimeter can stoke the three-point shot.

Defensively expect Montgomery to give the Sun Devils a steady diet of zone, though he'd rather not do it. Stanford is nothing if not an intelligently run team and Montgomery understands that in order to mitigate the value of Diogu he'll be forced to pack it in around the big man and force the Sun Devils to win from the outside.

Putting all of this aside, at the very least Evans had better bring his troops into battle more prepared to compete than they were in last week's game against Arizona. A team that he termed as less talented than Stanford. A team that beat Arizona State by 19 but seemingly could have done so by 40, or more.

Otherwise his post-game commentary may turn out to be yet another dud.

Prediction: Arizona State 61 Stanford 75

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