Oregon Preview

The Sun Devils hoops team (17-9, 6-8) attempt to sweep a home weekend for this first time in 2005 when they play the Oregon Ducks (12-10, 4-9) at Wells Fargo Arena 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. (15.0 pts, 2.9 rebs, 4.7 asst)
G Bryce Taylor 6-5 200 Fr. (11.2 pts, 2.4 rebs)
F Maarty Leunen 6-9 210 Fr. (5.6 pts, 4.7 rebs)
F Jordan Kent 6-5 200 So. (5.5 pts, 4.1 rebs)
F Malik Hairston 6-6 200 Fr. (12.8 pts, 4.6 rebs)

Key Reserves

G Chamberlain Oguchi 6-5 190 Fr. (4.4 pts, 1.4 rebs)
G Brandon Lincoln 6-4 200 Jr. (4.2 pts, 1.6 rebs)
C Mitch Platt 6-10 265 So. (3.4 pts, 2.2 rebs)
F Adam Zahn 6-8 225 So. (2.0 pts, 1.3 rebs)
C Ray Shafer 7-0 230 Fr. (1.7pts, 1.9rebs)

Overview

On paper, this is a game ASU should win. The Ducks are very young, with only one upper classmen, Junior Brandon Lincoln, in their top eight players. The remainder are freshmen and sophomores. In fact, freshmen account for 49% of the Ducks' offense and 42% of its rebounds.

However, the young wings and guards are talented and, like many inexperienced players, can get red hot or go cold at any time. The key against Oregon is to limit the number of players that get it going early. If only one of the Ducks' scorers starts heating up, opponents will be fine. The trouble starts when two or all three of the talented guards and wings start gaining confidence.

On paper, the Sun Devils match up pretty well against UO. Jason Braxton, the Devils' best on ball defender, will be matched up with PG Aaron Brooks, the Ducks' best scoring threat. The question will be who guards SF Malik Hairston on the wing. Thus far, nobody at the SF position for ASU has proven to be a great defender out on the perimeter. Hairston was a McDonalds's All American, which shows how talented he is, and can score in a variety of ways. He scores better when driving to the hole, but his shot is streaky and if he gets it going he can really be a handful for any defender(s).

Offensively, the Ducks have no answer for Ike Diogu. Historically, the Ducks have used their three big centers to just lean on Diogu in an attempt to wear him down; however, that game plan seems likely to change on Saturday, for a few reasons: 1) one of their 7' centers, Ian Crosswhite, is indefinitely suspended; 2) the Ducks have gone to a smaller starting lineup with 6'9" Maarty Luenen at center; and 3) Ernie Kent may have finally realized that the Oregon big men are not athletic enough to guard Ike, who has had his way with the Ducks offensively in the past.

So don't be surprised if the Devils see some zone defense out of the Ducks. When playing man-to-man defense, look for UO to quickly double Ike as soon as he touches the ball in an attempt to get it out of his hands as quickly as possible.

As monotonous as it has become, "ASU will win or lose the game on defense." If the Sun Devils can contain the Ducks' perimeter players, they will be in a good position to win. If two or more of them has above average games, the Devils will be scratching and clawing to try to get the victory in the waning moments of the game.

This Jekyll and Hyde team is so unpredictable it is completely frustrating. On one had, they have 17 wins. Three more wins this season, which would mean a victory over Arizona or Washington, may be just enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament – especially if they can tack on a win in the conference tournament. Conversely, the team has shown no focus or desire at critical moments of the season and have lost some games they should have won.

So, I am tired of trying to predict what they are going to do. It is an impossible endeavor. I'm just going to go to Wells Fargo and hope for the best – with no expectations.

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