The Oregon Men's Hoops Team moves to Tempe to face the ASU Sun Devils at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday. Arizona State is riding high given a 12-2 start and is an early pick to knock UCLA from their perch atop the Pac-10 Conference Standings. Just 2 years ago, Arizona State was living the life of a bottom-dweller, winning only 8 games. Herb Sendek came in and turned the Sun Devils around, seemingly overnight. Arizona State won 21 games last year and looked to be NCAA Tournament bound only to be snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee. So far in 2009, Arizona State looks to have all the pieces in place to break through that ceiling and return to the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona State couldn't be anymore different than Oregon when it comes to experience on the floor. The Sun Devils are returning their entire starting 5 and their top 7 scorers on the team. Senior post player Jeff Pendegraph is an absolute beast underneath the basket and at 6'9", 230 pounds, his experience will come into play quite a bit as Oregon tries to limit his touches and positioning underneath. James Harden. What can you really say about him? He averaged almost 18 points his freshman year, led the Pac-10 in steals and this year he is even better, adding another 7 points to his field goals per-game average.
The Sun Devils seem rightly tuned to exploit Oregon on the offensive side of the ball. Arizona State leads the conference in field-goal percentage (51 percent), free-throw percentage (76 percent), 3-pt field goal percentage (34.6 percent), and assists (17.2 per game). With Harden slashing to the basket, creating opportunities for himself and others, the Sun Devils seemingly can score at will and will make the most of their opportunities. They shot almost 65 percent from the field in their win against Oregon State and held them to 38 points.
Oregon Keys to the Game
1. Get the ball out of James Harden's hands
James Harden needs to be stopped at all costs. If he is left to roam throughout the court, expect him to get Dunigan in foul trouble early by slashing to the basket. The opportunities he creates for himself and his teammates must be limited if the Ducks want to stay in this game
2. Crash the Boards
Second chance points will be a key factor in this game. With Oregon shooting at 41.6%, the Ducks cannot afford to trade 1-for-1 shots with the Sun Devils. Oregon should have a considerable rebound advantage in this game. Keeping ASU to 1 shot while adding in several second chance opportunities should keep Oregon in good position score-wise.
3. Stay out of Foul Trouble
Oregon leads the conference in fouls per game at 21.5. We cannot afford to have our bigs get into foul trouble and hurt our rebounding advantage. With the Sun Devils being so good from the charity stripe, the Ducks will need to limit easy points from the line. Oregon will lose a Free Throw battle.