ASU Preview

There are innumerable issues to discuss and dissect for the Stanford Basketball program, but what lies immediately in front of Trent Johnson is the visiting Sun Devils from Arizona State. Rob Evans has his squad rolling with an 11-2 record, despite being picked to finish 10th in the conference. Read on for a look at the Cardinal's Thursday opponent and Pac-10 home opener.

ASU Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Rob Evans (7th Year)
Assistants: Tony Benford, Dan O'Dowd, Brooks Thompson

Projected Starting Five (2004-05 statistics):
PG – Jason Braxton 6-2 190 Sr.; (4.9 pts, 4.0 asst, 4.5 reb, 51.0% FG) – much improved as a floor leader this season
SG – Steve Moore 6-4 190 Sr.; (12.7 pts, 2.7 asst, 37.7% 3-pt) – streaky 3-pt shooter; will slide to SF when three guards on the floor
SF – Bryson Krueger 6-7 200 So.; (6.8 pts, 45.7% 3-pt) – JC transfer (Yavapai CC); solid outside threat; has been battling an ankle problem
PF – Serge Angounou 6-8 235 So.; (8.4 pts, 6.5 reb) – very nice mid-range game; improving rebounder
C – Ike Diogu 6-8 250 Jr.; (22.8 pts, 10.3 reb, 62.8% FG, 87.1% FT) – All-American; averaging a double-double so far; National POY candidate

Key Reserves:
SG/PG – Kevin Kruger 6-2 186 So.; (9.4 pts, 2.8 asst, 45.9% 3-pt) – most consistent 3-pt shooter; son of Lon Kruger (UNLV head coach); will start if Krueger's ankle is not ready
C – Craig Austin 6-10 220 Fr.; (1.6 pts, 1.4 reb) – brings energy off the bench; needs to add strength; good mid-range shooter
PG – Tyrone Jackson 6-2 210 Jr. (4.2 pts; 60% 3-pt) – JC transfer (Fresno CC); not flashy, but solid; CA JC POY last season
SF – Tim Pierce 6-7 190 Fr.; (2.8 pts, 2.2 rebs) – scored 50+ pts in his last three HS games; smooth outside shot; aggressive on the offensive end
PF – Allen Morrill 6-7 233 So.; (2.8 pts, 1.6 reb, 7.4 min) – athletic, strong, undersized post player

The Sun Devils have already surpassed their win total from a year ago. They currently have an 11-2 record and won only ten games all of last season. Consequently, Arizona State fans are optimistic about the 2004-2005 season's potential.

However, that enthusiasm is tempered by a weak non-conference schedule and a double digit loss in Tucson on Sunday. The Sun Devil faithful are mostly taking a "wait and see" approach to this season and are looking at the Bay Area trip as the barometer for how the season may progress.

There are solid bases for additional enthusiasm toward this ASU squad, though. Ike Diogu has continued to dominate inside and has added an improved outside shot to his game. More importantly, the supporting cast has stepped up to compliment Diogu's production, especially with improved outside shooting capability.

Sophomore PF Serge Angounou has been one of the major reasons for ASU's increased success. Although not 100%, he has continued his road back from a severe knee injury and has provided a very nice compliment to Diogu's inside presence. Angounou possesses a very nice mid-range jumper, improving rebounding skills, and his understanding of the game allows him to make good passes. This last skill makes him a threat in the high post, something ASU has sorely missed the past few seasons.

Additionally, outside shooters Kevin Kruger and Bryson Krueger have provided a respectable outside threat to compliment Diogu's post-up game. Last year, teams simply dropped everyone not guarding Steve Moore into the paint to impede Ike's progress and dared the other players to hit the outside shot. They could not do it. This season, Kruger and Krueger have kept teams from sagging as much because they are reliable shooters from long range. Teams have to respect their shooting ability and it is much more difficult for them to simply sag into the paint or to play packed-in zones.

Furthermore, senior PG Jason Braxton has really hit his stride as the Sun Devils' floor general. He is still not a threat to hit shots from outside of ten feet; however, his understanding of the Devils' strategies on both sides of the floor and his willingness to take a leadership role on the floor have made him a valuable asset so far. Furthermore, the addition of better outside shooting has allowed the Devils to hide Braxton's inability to hit the outside shot. He can simply get the ball into shooters' hands in the right spot, which he has done well.

The Sun Devil bench has also provided some bright spots. JC transfer PG Tyrone Jackson has provided a steady court presence when senior leader Braxton is on the bench. He is not as athletic as Braxton and does not play defense as well, but he is a 3-pt threat and puts additional pressure on teams when they have to choose how to stop Diogu on the block.

The rest of the Sun Devil bench players play short minutes designed to give Diogu and Angounou short rests. They are simply asked to rebound and defend well. Any points they score are a bonus in ASU fans' and coaches' eyes.

Defensively, the Devils have also improved. They mainly stick to a pressure man-to-man defense, although Evans will occasionally employ a 2-3 zone if Diogu gets in early foul trouble. Braxton is the best on-ball defender and really puts pressure on opposing PGs when trying to set the offense.

Overall, this Sun Devil team is much improved, but has a lot to prove. At least a split in the Bay Area will give ASU fans hopes for an upper-half Pac-10 finish.

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