Looking at the Pac-10 it the preseason, many thought that Arizona State (along with OSU) would be one of the few guaranteed wins out there on the Pac-10 basketball schedule. With Pac-10 play starting tonight, its looking increasingly like that will not be the case. The Sun Devils went 10-2 in the preseason--losing only to Illinois and at Nebraska, and blowing out a very good Xavier team. Oregon had trouble in Tempe last year--pulling out a 55-51 decision--and given Oregon's recent troubles, there is no reason to believe that tonight's matchup will be any easier.
This game really should be a clash of styles. ASU would prefer to keep the game in the 60s, while Oregon would rather ratchet it up into the 80s. To keep Oregon in check, coach Herb Sendek plans to apply the same zone defense that gave Oregon fits last year. While you would think that Oregon, which boasts a bevy of three point shooters, would be great against a zone defense, Oregon has traditionally struggled against zone. Instead of penetrating and kicking, which is the Ducks' usual M.O., they tend to stand around the perimeter against the zone. The zone takes away the high pick and roll that Oregon uses so much, and forces you to go through the high post to attack the basket. As a result, Oregon tends to sit on the perimeter and jack up three pointer after three pointer.
Like last year, ASU's best player is Jeff Pendergraph. Guarding Pendergraph will be a challenge for Maarty, especially as he won't have Joevan Catron (3-6 weeks, planar fascitis) to help him out. Pendergraph is a double double almost every night. What makes ASU much more dangerous, however, is that he has a lot more help than last year. Freshmen guards James Harden and Ty Abbott (16.9 and 11.6 ppg, respectively) will team with Pendergraph to take on much of the scoring load. Derek Glasser, who is a very nice passer, will play the point, and Jerren Shipp will man the perimeter as the main three point threat. Like Oregon, this team is undersized, with Pendergraph being the only real post player (the other four mentioned, plus main bench players Christian Polk and Jamelle McMillan, are all guards). There SHOULD be no matchup problems defensively other than possibly Pendergraph, but we all know that Oregon hasn't exactly wanted to play much defense lately.
WHAT I"D LIKE TO SEE
- Attack the zone. Don't settle for quick perimeter jumpers. Try to work the ball in and get the defense to collapse, then the open shots will be much easier.
- Run whenever you can. ASU wants to keep the pace low scoring. Any opportunities for easy baskets need to be seized.
- No slow start. In both the Nebraska and Oakland games, Oregon was burned because they didn't come ready to play. Have energy right from the opening tip. Remember, it is a privilege to play Division I basketball.
- Actually play defense. There is nothing tricky of difficult about this team offensively. Play solid defense, and they will have trouble getting above 60 points.
Bottom line--Oregon has sucked lately, while Arizona State has not. And, while Oregon should win on paper, they actually have to play the game. And the Ducks haven't seemed too interested in playing the game of late. With this many seniors, there is no excuse for that, and things need to change tonight. I know its early, but this is a must win if the Ducks want to be any kind of a factor in the Pac-10. Joevan's injury makes the job even tougher, as he was the one guy who had the right attitude. But perhaps Kamyron Brown starting will take the pressure off Tajuan and help end his slump.