Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar (3rd year)
Assistants: Ken Bone, Cameron Dollar, Jim Shaw
G Nate Robinson 5-9 180 Jr. (16.3 pts, 3.6 rebs, 4.9 asst, 40.3% 3pt)
G Will Conroy 6-2 195 Sr. (9.4 pts, 3.1 rebs, 6.5 asst)
G Tre Simmons 6-5 200 Sr. (16.7 pts, 4.9 rebs, 43.4% 3pt, 85.1% FT)
F Bobby Jones 6-6 215 Jr. (11.7 pts, 5.4 rebs, 48.1% 3-pt)
F Mike Jensen 6-8 240 Jr. (6.4 pts, 4.3 rebs)
G Joel Smith 6-4 205 Fr. (4.7 pts, 42.9% 3-pt)
G Brandon Roy 6-6 215 Jr. (13.2 pts, 3.8 rebs, 40.0% 3-pt)
F Jamaal Williams 6-5 225 Jr. (9.6 pts, 3.8 rebs, 57.1% FG)
C Hakim Rollins 6-7 245 Sr. (2.8 pts, 2.4 rebs)
Having just played each other two weekends ago and one other time earlier in the season, these two teams are very familiar with each other. They know what the opponent wants to do on offense and defense. There shouldn't be any surprises when the Devils and Huskies lock up in LA's Staples Center.
Both teams are coming off losses in their final conference game. The Devils lost a heartbreaker to Arizona on a last second shot by Salim Stoudamire, while the Stanford Cardinal picked the Huskies apart to secure third place in the conference. The loss kept UW from sharing the Pac 10 championship with Lute Olson's Wildcats.
If ASU wants to avoid a third loss to the Dawgs and keep the dream of winning the conference tournament alive, they will have to play stellar perimeter defense. This defense involves both contesting outside shots and cutting off penetration lanes. Washington's back court is as talented as any the Sun Devils have faced this season and they can score over the top of defenses with their long range shooting or by driving to the hole and either scoring themselves or creating opportunities for others.
Conversely, the UW frontcourt does not pack much of an offensive threat. In fact, both post players for the Huskies are better outside shooters than they are scoring in the post with their backs to the basket. Accordingly, Ike Diogu and Serge Angounou should be able to play good help defense when the perimeter defense breaks down.
Another aspect in which the Devils must excel is rebounding, especially late in games. ASU has lost multiple games because of the opponents' ability to get to the offensive glass at the end of games. If the Sun Devils are to win Thursday's game, it will probably be a close contest and getting big stops and rebounds will be important at critical times down the stretch. So far this season, the Devils have not shown that ability.
On the offensive end, the Devils must be aggressive. The Huskies have shown a propensity to get into foul trouble and to put their opponents on the line early and often. Both ASU and Stanford used a big discrepancy at the charity stripe to their advantage against the Huskies earlier this year. The Devils need to get to the line as often as possible to slow down the game and to force the UW pressure defense to back off a bit.
Luckily for the Sun Devils, nobody gets to the line more frequently than Ike Diogu. The Devils must use Ike's superiority in the paint to get easy buckets and foul shots. This is the main area in which the Huskies are vulnerable to ASU's offensive weapons. UW has plenty of athletes to run around with the Devils' guards and wing players all day; however, they do not have the interior defense necessary to stop Diogu on the blocks. Ike should touch the ball as often as possible.
The Devils' hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth ride on winning the Pac 10's automatic bid, which means winning this weekend's tournament. Thursday's game is the first of three straight victories ASU will need to accomplish this task. They have put themselves in the tough position of having to face the #2 seed in the opening round, but they would probably have to go through Washington and Arizona to earn the automatic bid anyway. They might as well get the Huskies out of the way first.
Of course, the Huskies will be fired up after letting a share of the conference championship slip through their fingers in Palo Alto. They will want to use this weekend to prove that they deserve to be viewed at the same level as Arizona.
We'll see if the Devils are ready to take the Huskies' best shot.
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