After a loss to Cal that gave the Bears the Pac-10 title, the Devils rebounded very nicely with a sweep at home over USC and UCLA to avenge the sweep they endured when they travelled to those two schools to start off the Pac-10 slate. Eric Boateng turned in a dominant performance on Senior Day with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Stanford, on the other hand, comes in limping to the Pac-10 tourney. Losers of three straight, the Cardinal finished 7th in the Pac-10 and would have usually had to win their way into the quarters but they received a bye due to USC being banned from postseason play. Within their current three-game skid, the good news is that they only lost the three games by an average of 6.8 points so they are keeping their opponents close. The bad news is that their last three games were all at home.
The Sun Devils swept the season series over the Cardinal but neither game was a breeze so this one should be a battle. In the first game, the Devils jumped out to an improbable start getting ahead by 30 at one point but in the second half, the Devils had to withstand a solid little rally from Stanford and won by a mere 18 points. In game two, ASU trailed early and couldn't get much going but Boateng saved the day with a perfect 11 of 11 night from the field and 24 points total as the Devils pulled out a 68-60 win.
F – Jack Trotter – (6.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG) vs. Eric Boateng (8.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG)
The Cardinal are much like the Devils in that they use a predominantly smaller lineup with Mann, Shiller, and Green running the show in the backcourt. Shiller and Mann are both PG types much like Glasser and McMillan (but not as good) in the ASU lineup. Green is scorer that has really opened a lot of eyes this season. An explosive inside-out slasher, Green would get a lot more pub if it wasn't for Landry Fields. The starters will see some relief from Emmanuel Igbinosa, Da'Veed Dildy and Gabriel Harris.
This is the ultimate trap game for ASU and they need to take care of business to keep their Tourney hopes alive. The Devils will be led by Glasser running the point and joining him in the backcourt are McMillan and All-Pac-10 performer Ty Abbott. While McMillan's scoring has dipped majorly, his impact is still strongly felt in every other facet of the game. Abbott has been a man possessed since Herb Sendek opened up the offensive flow and his play has been the difference in at least a few wins thus far. Off the pine will be Pac-10 All-Freshmen team member Trent Lockett and possibly Demetrius Walker.
Edge – ASU
When it comes to surveying the landscape of college basketball this season, you find that there aren't many people who have been better than Landry Fields this year but unfortunately, there aren't many people who have noticed. Fields has been a beast all season long for the Cardinal and without him, Stanford would undoubtedly be in the Pac-10 cellar. Next to Fields is Jack Trotter, a solid big man whose game has improved as the season has progressed. Andrew Zimmermann and Matei Daian provide some minutes off the bench.
Ironically, both Eric Boateng and Rihards Kuksiks refuse to both have spectacular performances in the same game but they have been equally as important to this team. Against USC, Kuksiks was lights out and then facing UCLA, Boateng was the best player on the court. These two need to finish their careers (assuming this is Kuksiks' season) off on a high note and they will need to both play well for a deep run. Off the bench will be a suddenly clutch Jerren Shipp as well as Taylor Rohde.
Edge - Stanford
Herb Sendek. The Pac-10 Coach of the Year has been incredible all season long but the 22 wins will mean nothing if Stanford takes this game. The zone defense has to be strong and the Devils need to make the Cardinal force shots and keep Fields and Green frustrated.
Who Will Win and Why
Two years ago, ASU was the last team cut from the NCAA Tournament field after a first-round loss in the Pac-10 Tournament. Last year, the Devils went on a run and made it to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game and consequently invited to the Big Dance. While there are other factors involved, the simple math here is that ASU will go dancing if they win a game or two in the Pac-10 Tournament. With this much on the line, a great coach, and senior leadership – the Devils will win this game in a typical grind-it-out fashion.
ASU 63 Stanford 58