Oregon Preview

The Sun Devils hoops team (13-5, 2-4) attempt to garner a split on the Oregon trip when they play the Oregon Ducks (11-4, 3-3) at McArthur Court on Saturday.

Coaches

Head Coach: Ernie Kent (eighth year)
Assistants: Scott Duncan, Fred Litzenberger, Kenny Payne

Projected Starters

G Aaron Brooks 6-0 160 So. (16.0 pts, 2.7 rebs, 4.9 asst) - explosive playmaker; injured most of the 2003-2004 season; scored 34 pts against USC this year
G Bryce Taylor 6-5 200 Fr. (12.7 pts, 2.6 rebs) – 45% 3-pt shooter; made six 3-pt FGs on his way to scoring 26 pts at WSU
C Mitch Platt 6-10 265 So. (3.6 pts, 2.7 rebs) – space eater inside; had success in the post vs. Diogu last season
F Ian Crosswhite 7-0 250 Jr. (10.0 pts, 6.1 rebs) – not much of a post threat; scored a season high 16 against Vanderbilt
F Malik Hairston 6-6 200 Fr. (12.1 pts, 4.3 rebs) – very athletic wing player; pulled down nine rebounds against Illinois

Key Reserves

F Maarty Leunen 6-9 210 Fr. (5.6 pts, 5.2 rebs) – reached double digit rebounds three times this season; played 29 mins against OSU
G Brandon Lincoln 6-4 200 Jr. (4.8 pts, 1.7 rebs) – serviceable reserve; not spectacular at any one thing
G Jordan Kent 6-5 200 So. (4.4 pts, 2.5 rebs) – not a substantial scoring threat, but decent rebounder and team player
C Ray Shafer 7-0 230 Fr. (1.7pts, 1.9rebs) – young, developing big man; will only receive spotty minutes; developing a post game

Overview

After watching the Devils get pounded in Corvallis on Thursday night, it is hard to imagine them having much of a chance at one of the Pac 10's toughest venues, McArthur Court in Eugene. If the Devils want to have a chance, they must play much more focused defense and hit a higher percentage of their perimeter shots. Otherwise, the dam could break early and ASU could find themselves down double digits in the first half.

Oregon will use their superior height to try to bother Diogu on the blocks. They will send Crosswhite, a seven-footer, to double on Ike. To counteract this, ASU's other players must find open areas of the floor where Ike can see them. Cutting to the basket behind a wall of two big post players probably isn't going to be that effective because Ike won't be able to see to get the cutter the ball.

Undoubtedly, the Ducks will also tell PG Aaron Brooks to sag into the paint when Jason Braxton is in the game. When this happens, JB has to find a way to be an offensive threat. Eventually, he is going to have to step up and hit a couple shots from 12 feet out. Teams are just giving him those shots and he must take them and make them.

Most importantly, the Devils need to do a better job of identifying which players on the floor can hurt them offensively, then shutting them down. Hairston and Brooks are the Ducks' biggest offensive threats. ASU should extend the defense, play straight man-to-man on the big guys, and see if Oregon's big men can step up to the challenge.

Braxton should be able to slow Brooks down a bit; however, ASU does not have a defensive stopper for Hairston. How well the rest of the team helps out to slow the smooth freshman down will have a major impact on this game.

Overall, ASU must do the things they haven't done well recently if the want to have a chance to split on this road trip and to salvage a somewhat reasonable shot at making the NCAA tourney. In other words, they must defend, rebound, and hit their outside shots.

The last three games indicate that the Devils are not focused enough to do the things it takes to win right now. However, they usually play well in Eugene. We'll know a lot about the character of this team on Sunday.

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