Arizona Preview

With hopes of an NCAA bid out the window, the Sun Devils (18-11, 7-10) hope to end the season on a positive note by knocking off the #11 Arizona Wildcats (24-5, 14-3) at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday. previews the game while taking out our frustrations on our in-state rivals with a little humor at their expense.


Head Coach: Lute Olson (22nd season, really grumpy for the last five or so)
Assistants: Jim Rosborough (Wildcati Information Minister), Rodney Tention (guards Lute's hair products), and Josh Pastner (picture Jeff Van Gundy on Lute's…ahem…leg)

Projected Starters

G Mustafa Shakur 6-3 183 So. (8.2 pts, 3.7 rebs, 4.6 asst) – tends to disappear at times; has not lived up to the usual standards at self-proclaimed "Point Guard U"
G Salim Stoudamire 6-1 179 Sr. (18.1 pts, 2.0 asst, 53.4% 3pt) – deadly shooter with crazy range and lots of energy; best way to take him out of the game is to try to get in his Chia head
C Channing Frye 6-11 248 Sr. (15.8 pts, 7.7 rebs) – co-Pac 10 POW last week; oops, no he wasn't…sorry Lute; must be on ‘roids because he actually played strong last week
F Hassan Adams 6-4 212 Jr. (12.4 pts, 5.9 rebs, 2.9 asst) – poor man's Shawn Marion; nicknamed "Hot Sauce" but "Dunkin Gonuts" or "Vogue" is more appropriate
F Ivan Radenovic 6-10 221 So. (8.6 pts, 5.8 rebs) – skilled, European-style game; match-up with Serge Angounou will be very interesting…if a soccer ball ends up on the court

Impact Reserves

F Isaiah Fox 6-9 263 Jr. (2.2 pts, 2.4 rebs) – was slated to start at PF this season, but has found himself in the doghouse often this season; Wildcat fans wish he was a senior
G Chris Rodgers 6-4 210 Jr. (6.0 pts, 2.3 rebs, 2.4 asst) – out-played Shakur for much of the early conference season but has tailed off recently; from Oregon, but doesn't smoke as much dope as the Stoudamire cousins
G Jawann McClellan 6-4 214 Fr. (5.2 pts, 2.7 rebs) – athletic freshman that is a natural scorer; next in line of Cats' athletic guard/wings;
C Kirk Walters 6-10 233 So. (2.7 pts, 1.5 rebs) – red-shirt was removed midway through the season; could be fun to watch him and ASU's Craig Austin battle for tall, skinny white dude bragging rights


Once again, it is time for the Arizona Wildcats and their 5,000 fans to come to Wells Fargo Arena. Lucky us. They arrive in Tempe from their homes in Tucson…err…Phoenix/Scottsdale hoping to kick the Devils when they're down and to send a message that the gap, ravine, canyon, UofA coed's legs, or whatever they're calling it these days is not and has not closed.

On paper, the Devils have no business winning this game. The Wildcats are more talented, more experienced, nationally ranked, battle tested, and…well…just better. Add in the fact that ASU seems to have much more of a propensity to lose games they should win than win games they should lose and Sun Devils fans should expect another beat down at home in the "rivalry."

Of course, there could be a few things that help out ASU's chances. For example, any one of these activities could get into the Cats' heads and become distractions: the 475 large pepperoni pizzas that will be thrown on the floor; the 7,000 fans making fun of Steve Kerr's dead relatives; or maybe Dick Vitale will show up in a J.J. Redick jersey. Okay, I admit that these scenarios are a bit far fetched.

However, if you really want to get far fetched, let's look at the things that would actually have to happen on the court for ASU to pull off the upset. First and foremost, the Devils' ball-handlers (not Eddie House-style) will have to take care of the ball, especially when setting the offense from the perimeter. If UofA can generate steals out above the free throw line, the athletic Wildcats will make the Sun Devils pay with easy lay-ins and dunks.

Second, somebody – anybody – on ASU's team has to figure out how to slow down Stoudamire. He is a much, much, much better shooter than Duke's J.J. Redick (just ask Lute!) and can score in many different ways from many different areas of the court. The Devils must find a way to make Salim continue his struggles from last weekend's Washington trip, on which he only shot 4-of-15 from behind the arc (26.7%) and 6-of-22 from the field (27.3%). Honestly, I am not too sure there is a certain way to slow "Redick's Sharp Shootin' Daddy" down. He can go hot and cold within a game and it really seems that his mental state is much more indicative of his production that anything the defense does. Whether he is focused or out in never-never land, the Sun Devil defenders cannot let him get wide-open looks or he'll score in bunches.

Speaking of scoring in bunches; the Wildcats like to break close games open with big scoring runs. All Sun Devil fans should be very familiar with these types of descriptions of past ASU-UofA games, "The Sun Devils kept it close until Arizona went on a 22-4 run seven minutes into the second half. ASU could not recover and lost by 17." A good example of this is the teams' previous meeting in Tucson. ASU played tough and hung in the game until the Cats went on a 14-0 run in the second half and won by 18 points. Hot shooting and turnovers lead to these types of runs for the Cats. ASU must value the basketball and play solid defense to limit any runs to more manageable, single digit levels.

On offense, ASU must try to turn into the Washington State Cougars, which is to say they need to slow the game down as much as possible. The Devils cannot run with Arizona (not many teams can) and if they try, whoever is named interim athletic director tomorrow afternoon should come out of the stands and fire Rob Evans and his coaching staff on the spot. The Sun Devils need to walk the ball up the court, handling the Cats' defensive pressure along the way, and get the ball into Ike Diogu's hands as often as possible. Getting the ball to Diogu early and often is important for two reasons: 1) getting the ball in the hands of the All American gives ASU the best chance for victory; and 2) Channing Frye will not be able to continue his overwhelming domination of Diogu when he puts up 20 points against Ike's one-one one defense while Ike only manages 17 with Frye, Adams, Radenovic, Stoudamire, Shakur, Fox, Walters, Livengood, Stoops, Pastner, and three elected leaders of the new UofA student section draped on him all night.

Since Ike will receive so much attention, the Sun Devil shooters will get good looks and must knock down their shots. The Kru(e)gers and Steve Moore must take and make the open shots they will get. Furthermore, when Braxton is in the game, he has to find a way to be an offensive threat or Shakur will down on the block humping Ike's leg before Ike even touches the ball. That is why I believe Tyrone Jackson will be an important factor in the game. His outside shooting can be the threat that gets Diogu a little more room to operate; however, Jackson looked like a deer in headlights in the previous meeting of the two teams. The Cats' on-ball pressure really disrupted Jackson's game, with turnovers and easy buckets being the result. "TJ" did look improved against Washington's pressure defense, though, so he may be ready to make a positive impact on Saturday.

As you probably already know, ASU will have to play its best game of the season in order to have a chance to win. They'll have to play as hard and as focused as they did against Washington last week, but better on the defensive end. Even then, the Devils may lose. The Wildcats are that much more talented than ASU. Only one Sun Devil starter would find himself in Lute's starting five – Ike Diogu. Of course, he'd probably transfer after getting completely humiliated by Frye in practice every day, but I digress.

To any logical person, ASU really doesn't have a chance. But we're fans not logicians, so we go and root for them anyway despite long odds and having to deal with the only fans outside of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Lawrence that prefer basketball to football.

One thing is for certain – after the pizzas are scraped off the court, security removes the entire student section twice, and Frye completely humiliates Ike yet again, ASU is still going to the NIT and will finish in the lower half of the conference. And that, unfortunately, isn't a laughing matter. Win or lose, this has been a completely frustrating season, maybe even more so if we win. I hope the Devils go out and play like they have nothing to lose (because they don't).

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