It doesn't get much better than Tempe in March. Great weather, ASU / Stanford hoops, spring training and fantastic scenery. How did I not get a hall pass for this weekend? The Cardinal play my second favorite PAC-10 team in the valley of the sun. The ASU preview is tough because Prewitt, Storey and Crandall are all nursing injuries and their status is uncertain. They played last night vs. cal, and my guess is that they will put on their best Willis Reed imitations and make it onto the court. The Sun Devils are bitter about the loss to the Cardinal at Maples earlier this year. They will come out on senior day with a lot of emotion and with something to prove.
I haven't been this proud of a Sanford team since 1979 when they knocked off UCLA. Pure guts, hard work and determination. A total team effort last night. Lots off ice packs on the bus ride to Tempe tonight. Can they mustard up the same energy and guts vs. ASU on Saturday?
I asked Hod Rabino from the DevilsDigest.com Sun Devil site to help me with the preview. Many thanks to Hod for helping me out.
Q. What is ASU / Stanford Basketball?
Hod - Hard-nose defense, which is aimed to out-rebound their opponent and force turnovers. On offense, having good ball movement and drawing the defense by making perimeter shots.
Hoops - Traditionally this has been fundamental defense, set offense and a physical presence in the post. Wear down your man on defense, shooter opposite post on offense. This year, the team is either still working on implementing Mike Montgomery Basketball or Monty is adapting a style to fit the team. Thursday night's style of basketball looked very familiar.
Q. When ASU / Stanford wins they
Hod - Play sound defense, force turnovers and out-rebound their opponent.
Hoops - Get the ball out in transition and score. Someone other than Curtis and Casey scores more than 15 points.
Q. When ASU / Stanford lose they
Hod - Try to get into a shootout, where they force their shots
Hoops - Don't hit the offensive boards and don't get scoring from anyone but Casey and Curtis.
Q. What makes ASU's / Stanford's offense run?
Hod - Good ball movement, and having Prewitt and Millage make their outside shots
Hoops - Ball movement. Opening up low post by hitting outside shots.
Q. What is the key to ASU's / Stanford's defense?
Hod - Staying out of foul trouble, not getting out-hustled, and having our guards use their quick hands to force steals.
Hoops - Solid fundamental defense. Find you man and block him out when the shot goes up. Rebound
Q. How to beat ASU / Stanford
Hod - Get their players in foul trouble and win the battle on the boards.
Hoops - Pressure the ball. Crash the boards, and make someone other than Casey and Curtis beat you.
Q. ASU's / Stanford's Game Plan
Hod - Execute their defense plan, and let their offense build on that.
Hoops - Take care of the ball. Make ASU pay if over-playing the ball, trapping or pressing. Establish an inside game. Put a body on their man when the shot goes up.
Q. Have the Sun Devils / Cardinal met its fans expectations?
Hod - Virtually all ASU fans expected this team to make the NCAA tournament, and unless the Sun Devils go on the hottest streak of the season in the conference tournament, it will be NIT bound. However, Evans' team proved that it could go to-to-toe with all conference powerhouses, and wins over Arizona, Oregon, and at UCLA this season do give a glimmer of hope for the future.
Hoops - Expectations varied among Stanford fans. The Cardinal had major holes to fill losing 4 starters. Booties envision anywhere from 17 to 22 wins after the Pac-10 tournament, which is where the Cardinal will be. Most fans figured they would take their lumps in the beginning but would be peaking toward tournament time. The wind has been taken out of the Cardinal, sail and they were searching for a gust to get them back on the journey to the tourney. Hopefully the boat is on the right tact.
Q. Comment of the Officials and their treatment to your team / coach
Hod - Evans' tough style of defense doesn't sit well with the Pac-10 officials. Thus, no matter if ASU is heavily trailing or enjoying a commanding lead, they rarely get a break from the officials. It also could be that Rob Evans and ASU, unlike teams like teams such as Stanford, Arizona and UCLA, haven't earned the respect of the PAC-10 officials. Until that changes, one can expect the Sun Devils to foul more than its opponents.
Hoops - Monty often gets criticised from other schools fans for always being on the officials' case and being animated. Some coaches are animated, some are intimidating and some try to kiss up to the officials. Say what you want about Monty's style, but at least he is the only coach on the Stanford bench standing and barking at the officials. Also, you won't see Monty on the playing court while the game clock is running, disputing a call. In the officials' eyes I don't know which is worse (or technically legal): one coach disputing calls / making points or 3 coaches doing it on the floor. I don't think the Stanford bench gives the refs any more "total lip" than other Pac-10 benches.
Hod – Which emotion will prevail for the Sun Devils on Saturday? Will it be the frustration of the loss to Cal, a game that should have been won by ASU? Will it be the emotional farewell to seniors Chad Prewitt and Awvee Storey, which could fire up the team and crowd alike? How will Evans treat the refs and vice versa, after the coach lashed out at them on Thursday? Will Stanford come out flat after the win at Arizona? The answers to all these questions will eventually determine if ASU will have a chance to win this game.
Hoops – The Cardinal played a great game last night. They will limp into Tempe knowing that they are tournament bound. Can they be business-like and take care of the Sun Devils? The Sun Devils are still fighting for a post-season invitation. Two loses puts them at 14 – 14 and on the NIT bubble. It's senior day and Rob Evans' will have ASU fired up. The Cardinal needs to be ready to play right off the bat and stop any ASU emotion.