Xavier Preview

The Arizona State Sun Devils plays arguably its best non-conference home game in 25 seasons when No. 17 Xavier comes to town for a 2 p.m. tip on Saturday. It marks the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to come to Tempe since seventh-ranked Ohio State on Dec. 20, 1980, as the Musketeers have already topped traditional powerhouses Indiana, Creighton, and cross-town rival Cincinnati this year.

Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament seven of the past 10 years and has won 20 or more games in a season nine times this past decade. The Head Coach of Xavier, Sean Miller, was an assistant under Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek at Miami (OH) and North Carolina State.

The Sun Devils come into the highly-anticipated matchup with two triumphant wins over Delaware State and Coppin State after losing to Nebraska in Lincoln. Arizona State is led by freshman swingman James Harden (16.5 PPG) and junior center Jeff Pendergraph (10.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG). The Musketeers are quite possibly the most balanced scoring team in the country with six players averaging double-figures led by PG Drew Lavender (12.6 PPG) and swingman B.J. Raymond (12.3 PPG). This is the third ever meeting in the series for these two teams with Xavier beating ASU last year in Cincinnati, 76-58.

Head Coach – Sean Miller (4th Season, 71-33)

Projected Starters –

PG – Drew Lavender – 12.6 PPG, 5.3 APG
SG – Stanley Burrell – 10.3 PPG, 46% 3PT
SF – B.J. Raymond – 12.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG
PF – Derrick Brown – 11.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG
C – Josh Duncan – 11.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG

Key Reserves –

G – C.J. Anderson
F – Jason Love
C – Charles Bronson

Overview –

The Arizona State Sun Devils play their strongest opponent thus far on Saturday and will be in for a real battle. The maroon and gold have shown flashes of brilliance in some games as well as instances of inexperience and frantic play in other contests. If ASU can come out and find a rhythm against an extremely talented and balanced, but thin Xavier squad, they will have a chance to pull the upset.

Guards –

Xavier heavily emphasizes strong guard play in their fast paced and balanced attack. Therefore, the Sun Devils should be prepared to run against the lightning quick Lavender and the sharp shooting triplets of Burrell, Raymond, and Anderson. ASU will counter with the talented freshman trio of Harden, Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan. The three freshmen guards have played well this year, but in the team's two losses to Illinois and Nebraska, all three have looked the part of raw and inexperienced freshmen. Harden has stepped up as the explosive scoring option and the team's offensive prowess goes as far he will take them.

Solid Edge – Xavier

Forwards –

Both teams play small lineups so the forward position is just about moot in a game like this. Nonetheless, Xavier will give ASU some problems with their size. Derrick Brown and Charles Bronson will force ASU to make a decision as to whether to start another big man alongside Jeff Pendergraph or if they will exploit their size and use the smaller forwards, Jerren Shipp and Antwi Atuahene to exhaust the Musketeers big men. If the Sun Devils try to match-up, expect to see a lot more of reserves Eric Boateng and Kraidon Woods.

Solid Edge – Xavier

Centers –

Xavier's senior leader and starting center Josh Duncan is a game-day decision after hurting his knee against Cincinnati and if he is out, Jeff Pendergraph should be primed to control the paint and help the Sun Devils make a case for an upset. Even if Duncan plays, Pendergraph should be able to have his way against his slower counterpart.

Slight Edge – ASU

Final Score – Xavier 73 ASU 66

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