Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar (3rd year)
Assistants: Ken Bone, Cameron Dollar, Jim Shaw
G Nate Robinson 5-9 180 Jr. (15.9 pts, 3.8 rebs, 5.0 asst, 38.1% 3pt)
G Will Conroy 6-2 195 Sr. (9.5 pts, 3.1 rebs, 6.5 asst)
G Tre Simmons 6-5 200 Sr. (16.1 pts, 5.1 rebs, 40.6% 3pt, 85.9% FT)
F Bobby Jones 6-6 215 Jr. (11.2 pts, 5.7 rebs)
F Mike Jensen 6-8 240 Jr. (7.2 pts, 4.6 rebs)
G Joel Smith 6-4 205 Fr. (5.0 pts, 47.2% 3-pt)
G Brandon Roy 6-6 215 Jr. (13.7 pts, 3.8 rebs, 38.1% FG)
F Jamaal Williams 6-5 225 Jr. (10.3 pts, 4.1 rebs, 58.2% FG)
C Hakim Rollins 6-7 245 Sr. (2.6 pts, 2.0 rebs)
It's once again time to break out all of the clichés. It is do or die time. It's time to separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chafe. No matter how you want to say it, this much is true:
To realistically have ANY chance at the NCAA Tournament, the Sun Devils must win at least two of the last three games this season. This means that one of those victories will have to come against one of the conference elite, in either Washington or Arizona.
The Devils head to Seattle with this on their minds. They must find a way to beat one of the conference's elite teams while still taking care of Washington State in Pullman. For a team that is as consistently inconsistent as ASU, this is a daunting task.
One thing that is for sure about the Huskies is that they can score often and in many ways. They are second in the nation in scoring, trailing only North Carolina, and averaging 86.6 points per contest. This means that ASU's Achilles heal, it's defense, will be tested as much or more as it has been all season. To add to the issues that the Devils' defense will face, UW is an extremely athletic team that likes to use dribble penetration to get open shots. ASU has not fared well against these types of teams in recent weeks.
If the first meeting between these two teams can be used as a barometer, ASU can keep the game close. They lost by 9 in Tempe and Nate Robinson had to perform some heroics in the second half to will the Huskies to victory. Of course, the Devils' 21 turnovers (resulting in 25 points) helped UW out a little bit, too.
However, the encouraging the for Devil fans is that ASU kept it close until the end of the game, even grabbing a lead at the 14:05 mark of the second half, without Ike Diogu having a monster game. Ike scored only 14 points and went to the free throw line only once (he missed). The supporting cast was not spectacular, either. Kevin Kruger scored 12 points, Steve Moore added 11, and Bryson Krueger tallied 10 points. Serge Angounou, while not lighting up the scoreboard, contributed 10 rebounds to Diogu's 13 boards and helped the Sun Devils win the battle on the boards, 37-32.
This most likely won't be the same game, though. The Huskies are very good on their home floor and will feel more comfortable shooting in the friendly confines of Bank of America Arena. And the crowd will likely do everything they can to disrupt the ASU offensive and defensive communications.
To pull off the upset, ASU must do a few things they did well against the Huskies in their first meeting of the season. The Devils must once again control the boards and hold the Huskies under their scoring average. Additionally, they must reduce the number of turnovers to no more than 12 because UW is merciless when creating points of turnovers. They will kill their opponents with easy points in transition off turnovers. Furthermore, five Sun Devils need to find a way to score in double figures and Ike needs to dominate the paint, which will get the Devils' outside shooters open looks.
And that is just on offense, which is the Devils' strong suit so far this year. On defense, the Devils will have to play their best game of the year. They cannot allow the Huskies to get into the lane for easy baskets. ASU must make Washington earn every bucket they get. Finally, the Sun Devils have to find a way to get back on transition defense. Otherwise, the Huskies will just push the ball down the floor quickly for easy dunks and lay-ups. So far this season, ASU has not had much success in transition defense, which will be completely exposed in Seattle if the Devils do not focus on this aspect of the game.
In the end, the Huskies are simply more experienced and more talented than ASU. The Devils could do most of the things I described above and still lose by double digits. Washington is able to score points in bunches and can bury most teams in a short span of time.
However, if ASU can keep the game close, anything can happen. If not, then the Devils have lost the little bit of leeway they have allowed themselves and will have to win the remaining two games to even sniff and NCAA Tournament invitation.
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