Head Coach: Trent Johnson (1st year)
Assistants: Tony Fuller, Eric Reveno, L.J. Hepp
PG Chris Hernandez 6-2 190 Jr. (14.6 pts, 4.2 asst)
GS Dan Grunfeld 6-6 215 Jr. (18.2 pts, 5.6 rebs)
C Rob Little 6-10 260 Sr. (10.2 pts, 5.6 rebs)
SF Nick Robinson 6-6 205 Sr. (7.5 pts, 4.5 rebs)
PF Matt Haryasz 6-11 230 Jr. (10.1 pts, 8.7 rebs)
PG Jason Haas 6-2 190 Jr. (2.4 pts, 1.7 asst) – will play along side Hernandez at times; disappointment so far this season; much better in practice than games
C Peter Prowitt 6-10 245 Fr. (2.3 pts, 1.6 rebs) – big, young body in the paint; not a good offensive player yet; decent post defender and rebounder but struggles defending on the perimeter
SF Fred Washington 6-5 205 So. (2.0 pts, 1.0 rebs) – may see some time at SG because of Stanford's lack of bodies
PF Taj Finger 6-8 184 Fr. (0.9 pts, 1.9 rebs) – long and athletic, but skinny frame; good effort as a rebounder; can be moved around in the post; prefers to face up on the offensive end
The usual logic would say that if you can beat a team in their gym, you should be able to beat them at your house, too. However, the Stanford team coming to Tempe on Thursday is a completely different team than the one the Devils beat in Palo Alto. Since the loss to ASU, the Cardinal are 6-0 and have a notable defeat of Arizona under their belt.
The main reason for the turnaround is the return of floor general and playmaker Chris Hernandez. The scrappy PG did not play against ASU a few weeks ago and the Devils took advantage of a Cardinal team missing their leader. Hernandez gives Stanford a hard nosed, gritty, and intelligent effort every time he is on the floor. He is also a scoring threat to compliment Dan Grunfeld and Matt Haryasz on offense.
What this means is that ASU will have to play extremely smart and efficient basketball if they want to have a chance to beat this red hot Stanford squad. If the Devils do not play smart and efficient, Hernandez will make them pay through transition buckets and timely outside shooting.
One of the main issues for ASU is Stanford's size. They are big up front, with two players taller than Ike Diogu, the Sun Devil All-American candidate forward. Accordingly, the Sun Devils will have to figure out how to slow down Rob Little and Matt Haryasz on the blocks and on the boards. Both players are averaging just over ten points per contest and Haryasz is coming off a week in which he received national recognition for his play. Limiting their offensive rebounds will be as important as stopping them in the Trees' offensive sets.
Of course, Grunfeld is also a major concern. The SG is averaging over 18 points per game and is one of the most improved players in the conference, if not the country. Grunfeld, being the son of a coach and former NBA player, understands the strategies and nuances of the game of basketball and takes advantage of them at all times. He runs his defender off screens very well to get open looks and also uses his body to create space to get his shot off. And when he gets it off, he doesn't miss much, shooting 50.8% on the season (including 40.4% from behind the arc).
And finally, if you do a good job defending these three players, Hernandez is still there, waiting to hit big shots and make big plays. In other words, pick your poison.
Offensively, the Devils game plan will be the same as usual. They need to run whenever opportunities arise to speed up the game and get the ball into Ike as often as possible. ASU has not been very efficient at getting Diogu touches on most trips down the floor. They need to do a much better job of utilizing their best player.
When Ike gets the ball, look for Little and Haryasz to double him quickly, which means that Ike will have to recognize the open man and move the ball quickly for open shots. Then the Devils other players need to knock them down.
This will be a very big task for the Sun Devils. The Cardinal are red-hot and arguably playing the best basketball in the conference right now. And, they are not a team that will allow you to make mistakes and win. The Devils will have to play one of their strongest games of the year to come out with a victory on Thursday night.
And that victory is crucial to the Devils hopes to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. So, there is a lot riding on Thursday night's game. Hopefully ASU can handle the pressure and surprise the experts.
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