Washington State Preview

ASU (14-4, 4-2) take on the Washington State (16-2, 4-2) on Saturday evening in hopes of trying to snap a two-game skid including their first loss at Wells Fargo Arena to the Washington Huskies on Thursday. After starting out with four consecutive wins in Pac-10 play, the Sun Devils have hit a bit of a road block and the mission only gets tougher when the #6 Cougars stroll into town.

Washington State was beaten soundly in Tucson on Thursday by Arizona but they still remain one of the best defensive teams in all of college basketball and they have developed a dangerous inside-outside punch on offense.

The Sun Devils will be playing with James Harden hobbling a bit but he will likely get a lot of minutes. In the loss against Washington, Harden was a game-time decision nursing a groin injury and while he did start and played the majority of the game, he was not at full speed and his lack of explosiveness was exposed as the offense never really got moving.

The last two losses for ASU have revealed that the lack of an inside presence to complement Jeff Pendergraph, and as proven against Washington Harden cannot do it all himself. Stanford and Washington both pressured Harden the entire game and when he wasn't able to get open or find a shot, the rest of the offense sputtered.

Head Coach Tony Bennett

Projected Starters

PG – Taylor Rochestie – (8.8 PPG, 5.2 APG)
SG – Derrick Low – (13.8 PPG, 42% 3PT)
SF – Kyle Weaver – (11.4 PPG, 45% 3PT)
PF – Daven Harmeling – (7.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG)
C – Aron Baynes – (12.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Thomas Abercrombie
G – Nikola Koprivica
F – Caleb Forrest
C – Robbie Cowgill

Overview

Last season, the Washington State Cougars came out of absolutely nowhere in Tony Bennett's inaugural season in Pullman. They won 26 games and finished second in the Pac-10 while advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament. This year, the Cougs are proving that they were not a one-year wonder starting the season off with 14 straight wins and their only two losses were on the road against UCLA and Arizona.

Many observers have compared Arizona State's quick rise this season to Wazzu's start last season and while that is very complimentary, the Sun Devils are still work in progress. Wins over Xavier, Oregon, and Arizona have really helped their, but the maroon and gold have certainly not realized their full potential.

Guards

Taylor Rochestie and Derrick Low are unselfish leaders that play suffocating defense and are deadly outside shooters. The Sun Devils had a lot of trouble covering the perimeter in their losses and will need to improve on that aspect if they want to contain the Cougar guards. Jamelle McMillan and Ty Abbott will likely get the starting nods in the backcourt for ASU and the young freshmen will need to restore their confidence and play smart basketball. If the Sun Devils struggle to get anything going, expect to see Derek Glasser to get quality minutes.

Solid Edge – Washington State

Forwards

This is where the Devils lack of size may not come back to haunt them. The Cougars play a similar style as the Sun Devils with a smaller lineup. Kyle Weaver is one of the nation's premier defenders and does absolutely everything well. Daven Harmeling is a good shooter and will take full advantage of any team that forgets him in the mix.

Arizona State will counter with Harden and Jerren Shipp. Harden will have his work cut out for him against Weaver and Shipp and Harmeling will be a key matchup to keep an eye on. The Cougars may start Robbie Cowgill if they want to take advantage of the size but Cowgill has been a solid 6th man and will likely remain in that role.

Slight Edge – Washington State

Centers

Aron Baynes is an absolute monster of a man and has really cleaned up his game. Once just a banger, Baynes has turned into an offensive force and a brick wall on defense. Pendergraph really struggled against an equally physical Jon Brockman and if he wants to take Baynes out of his game, Pendergraph will need to get his mid-range jumper working and take Baynes out of his comfort zone.

Slight Edge – Arizona State

Final Score – Washington State 67 Arizona State 63


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