Sunday, December 30, 2007

Good thing he didn't learn anything at U of A...

Tennessee Titan and former Wildcat Chris Henry getting torched by Indianapolis Colts D Tackle Darrell Reid.



"I think this is one of the biggest hits I've ever seen in my life." - John Madden

Post-Holiday Bowl Questions and Observations

I attended the Holiday Bowl after attaining tickets last minute. Some observations after attending the game.

1) ASU came out of the locker room to start this game with absolutely no energy. It reminded me of the 2004 game at USC when we were undefeated going in. It was a game to prove ourselves and we we're out of the game from the get-go. This game was much the same. I was sitting over on the Texas side during the first half, and their whole team was hooting and hollering the entire first half, while I looked over to the Sun Devil sidelines where the players had their arms crossed and were just standing around listless. It seemed like some of our players just wanted to get home and play Wii Tennis.

2) Carpenter took a lot of flak from the fans even though this was a team loss. Colt McCoy obviously outplayed him, but the offensive line gave another performance reminiscent of the 2002 Houston Texans. His thumb is obviously not healed, so a lot of the fans who are calling for Sullivan to replace him need to wait and see what happens in Spring ball.
Needless to say though, after severely missing receivers on key plays (Brent Miller on 4th down, the underthrown interception to McGaha late that sealed the Texas victory), Sullivan needs to be given a fair look in the offseason. With how talented our receivers are, the Sun Devils need a quarterback who can throw the ball deep with some zip. Some of those balls Carpenter threw looked like they were filled with helium, taking way too long to get to their target. Hopefully, with a successful recovery to his throwing hand, Carpenter can regain the pass efficiency we saw earlier in the season.

3) Chris McGaha is a great possession receiver. He was covered pretty well on that 4th down touchdown catch, and if he doesn't come up with that I might have been tempted to catch the trolley back to the Santa Fe Depot a little earlier than I did.

4) I'm interested to see how Kyle Williams will play in his final two seasons. With Rudy Burgess graduating, Williams needs to step up and be a team leader next season. After botching that punt return late and subsequently throwing a tantrum when he got back to the sideline, his character comes into question a little bit. If I had a helmet on in the stands, I probably would have thrown it down in disgust too after the way our team had been playing, but with Williams becoming a junior next season some of the younger guys are going to start looking to him for leadership. Just hope he can keep a cool head in the future, because everyone makes mistakes and it wont be his last one.

5) Our line backers and corners need to learn how to defend the screen pass a little better. The first screen of the game was covered well by Justin Tryon, but they killed us with the screen the rest of the game. USC found this out, and used it against us, and Texas used it as well. Georgia is usually deep at tight end and running back, and if we're going to have a chance at beating them next year we have to figure out how to defend those short passes. Our corners just flat out need to learn how to tackle better.

6) I think we'll be good next season at stopping the run. Even though we're losing Robert James and Michael Marquardt, I think we'll be just as good at stopping the run with David Smith, Jon Hargis and Tank English plugging up the middle. Our linebacker core will miss James, but Nixon, Goethel, Munns are all coming back and shouldn't miss a beat. Best of luck to James and Marquardt at the next level.

7) Texas running back Jamaal Charles will probably skip his senior season and go right to the pros. His agent just needs to show scouting directors game tape from the Holiday Bowl. He played his way into the first day of the draft most likely.

8) Getting to the quarterback. Colt McCoy had all day to find the open man. Dexter Davis was completely shut down, and Luis Vasquez was the only D-Lineman to come away with a sack. They combined their efforts for 16 sacks this season, but the Vasquez sack in the Holiday Bowl was the only one the duo came away with in our 3 losing efforts this season.

Any observations you guys have, please post them into the comments section.

Devils Cruise 95-56

ASU continued it's winning ways on Saturday with an easy win over St. Francis (PA) to move its record to 10-2 heading into Pac-10 play. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the game because I'm out of town so I'll leave it to the ASU Media Relations to give you the recap.

The Devils' 3-point shooting has continued to be a strength and Ty Abbott is emerging as a reliable scoring option along with James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. Herb Sendek has also moved Derek Glasser into the starting point guard position.

I'll be back Thursday for the Oregon game and hopefully will have a new podcast up soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Well then.

Well, hasn't this been just the most fun game in the whole wide world to watch?

Yikes.

At least Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit had nothing bad to say about Danny Sullivan, even alluding to him "giving Rudy Carpenter a run for his money during spring ball" with 2:15 left (yeah right, by the way). These are the guys who with five minutes left were talking about Mark Prior, the New York Giants chances of upsetting New England this weekend and basically everything else they could pack in as time ticked down.

And hey, Jarrell Woods is getting his first mention in this blog since...well...our Pitchfork Nation running backs preview.

Once I stew for a while, possibly bash something with an iron rod and wonder how to smuggle Jamaal Charles to Arizona State, I'll be back with some actual insight.

PS: Tonight's ESPN broadcast was absolutely atrocious. I might just devote an entire post to how bad the announcing was.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Bowl Links

Erickson says the sack problem is "multi-dimensional."

Yet Another review of Keegan Herring's 2007.

Erickson's last meeting against Texas went REALLY well.

The BurntOrangeNation Holiday Bowl Preview.

Yet again, here's our video with NBC Sports.

Speaking of videos...Desmond Howard incorrectly previews last year's Holiday Bowl:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Basketball Update


Happy Holidays to everyone....just wanted to check in and throw in a review of the past week for the basketball team. For those of you who value the insight of NCAA crazyman Dick Vitale, check out his weekly awards to see his praise for his Coach of the Week, Herb Sendek.


ASU picked up two more wins last week to improve to 9-2, already surpassing last year's win total for the season. With wins over Montana State and Idaho, ASU has only one more non-conference game remaining before the Pac-10 season begins. The Sun Devils will face St. Francis (PA) on Saturday, December 29 at home at 2pm.


The margin of victory over Montana State on Tuesday was smaller than expected, due mainly to the 14-of-24 shooting behind the arc that Montana State unloaded. Every time ASU tried to make a run, Montana State would hit a couple threes and be right back on the Devils' heels. ASU's zone leaves the three open a lot and Montana State is one of those teams that can just shoot the lights out from downtown. I'm guessing there isn't a lot to do up in Montana besides work on your J.


The Idaho game accented the fact that Sendek has made more of an effort to establish Jeff Pendergraph early in the game on offense. Pendergraph scored 8 of the first 10 Sun Devil points and went on to a career high 27 points for the game. Idaho also was on point from deep, going 13-of-23 from behind the arc. ASU again received a solid contribution from James Harden (17 points, 6 boards) and increasingly reliable scorers Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp (combining for 26 points and 13 boards) but the game played out a lot like the Montana State game.


The last two opponents have exploited the weakness of the zone defense by shooting a high percentage from outside and we'll have to see how this plays out in the incredibly deep Pac-10. One stat that I've always thought was indicative of how a team plays and controls the game is the number of free throws for each team. What I mean by this is that you always want to make more free throws than the opposing team attempts (especially if your team is not a particularly high scoring team...like ASU, for example), and if you do this, there is generally a good chance your team will be in position to win the game (ignore this completely when watching Suns games). ASU has done a good job all year of reaching this....benchmark I guess you could call it, and this will be increasingly important during close games.


Barring any mishaps or letdowns, ASU should win Saturday and take a 10-2 record into Pac-10 play...the program's best start in years. ASU opens conference play at home on January 3 at 7pm against the Oregon Ducks. I'm hoping to have another podcast up before then to go over a preview of the Pac-10 and it's overall nastiness this year.


Until then, check out Justin's piece with NBC Sports previewing the Holiday Bowl (highly enjoyable by the way) and root for the Devils on Thursday in San Diego. Go Devils!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Bowl Preview w/NBCSports and BurntOrangeNation

PitchforkNation's own Justin Karp was featured on the NBC Sports Blogger Faceoff previewing the Holiday Bowl coming up on Thursday. This video is a must see, check it out here.

Special thanks goes out to Peter Bean of BurntOrangeNation.com, Tiffany Simons of NBCSports, and Matt Casey of NBC Universal for producing the webshow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

SI.com's cheerleader of the week is...

Lauren Thompson



One more reason to be a proud Sun Devil. Lauren Thompson's gallery and interview can be found on SI.com.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Links

Down in Texas, ASU has been in the news quite a bit…

Our #22 Lady Devils dropped a game vs. #19 UT last night extending Texas’ win streak to 7.

Mack Brown’s recent (Dec. 18) press conference is an interesting read.

Recruiting the 2008 men has become easier due to this years success. One prospect I am excited about is running back Aundre Dean hailing from Katy, Texas.


AUNDRE DEAN

Speaking of running backs, speedy Keegan Herring hopes to suit up for the Holiday bowl.

Lastly, I wanted one, so I made them. If you are interested in a PT*42 sticker you can purchase them here.



Happy holidays from Texas!
-Nick

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Viva Pitchfork Nation! Viva Las Vegas!

We're 11 days away from turning the calendar to 2008 and closing the book on a stellar year of sports at Arizona State.

Time for a celebration!

Mark and I are headed to Las Vegas for the next couple days (ironically, on two completely separately planned trips, and we didn't realize we were going at the same time until like, this past Wednesday). T.J. is in charge of keeping you all up to date on what's up with the basketball team 'till we're back in action, most likely on Sunday.

Thanks for all your patronage to our website, good luck in the Bowl Pick 'Em and stay tuned in the next few days for a new video, as I appeared on NBCSports.com today with NBC super-hottie-blogger Tiffany Simons (on the left in the linked pic, obviously) and totally pwned the guy who writes BurntOrangeNation.com at trivia. Actually, he was a really good dude. Check his blog out in the run up to the Holiday Bowl.

Have a safe and good weekend, and we'll catch up with you next week.

Go Devils!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Submit Your Bowl Picks by Midnight

Remember to submit your Bowl Pick'em to pitchforknation@gmail.com by midnight. Winner gets a $20 gift card to Venezia's Pizza. We've got about 30 entries so far, so send me your picks along with your name.

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. UCLA
Emerald Bowl: Oregon State vs. Maryland
Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force
Sun Bowl: Oregon vs. South Florida
Insight Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Indiana
Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Arkansas
Capital One Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan
Gator Bowl: Virginia vs. Texas Tech
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Hawai'i
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Illinois
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
BCS National Championship: Ohio State vs. LSU
Tie-Breaker: Total Points Scored in National Title Game ________

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Picks in the PN Bowl Pick 'Em

Thanks to all of you who have gotten your picks in for the PitchforkNation.com Bowl Pick 'Em game. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? $20 to Venezia's is on the line here, folks.

If you recall, one of the perks to playing is if you beat any of the writers here at the Nation, we'll put your name up for all to see. You can be "that guy" that had his name up there on the site recognizing that you owned the bloggers in picks.

Here are my picks for the contest:
Las Vegas Bowl: Brigham Young
Emerald Bowl: Oregon State
Armed Forces Bowl: California
Sun Bowl: South Florida
Insight Bowl: Indiana
Outback Bowl: Tennessee
Cotton Bowl: Arkansas
Capital One Bowl: Florida
Gator Bowl: Texas Tech
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State
Sugar Bowl: Georgia
Rose Bowl: USC
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech
BCS National Championship: Ohio State
Tiebreaker Score: 42

Pitchfork Podcast

So here it is, the long awaited (at least on my part) podcast detailing the world of Sun Devil basketball.

Special thanks to Andrew Brown for coming on as a guest and helping out with the first podcast.

Please forgive my awkwardness at the beginning of the podcast, it's my first attempt and it'll get better. Look for more in the future with different guests and more personality on my part.

It runs a bit long so download it and take it with you when you walk the dogs or let it play while you're sitting on the john. I'd love your feedback as well. Thanks and enjoy!

http://sundevilbasketball.mypodcast.com/index.html

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Big Day for Sendek and the Boys

A little cold wasn't going to stop Ty Abbott from having the game of his young career.

A little match-up with the nation's 17th-ranked team wasn't going to stop the youthful Sun Devils from putting on the most important performance this program has seen since 2003.

The scoreboard at the end of the game said it all: Arizona State 77, Xavier 55. It's the second straight win for Arizona State over a ranked opponent, but arguably this one is more meaningful because it came against a non-conference opponent (which USC wasn't) and a team that was playing very well coming (again, which USC wasn't).

Today's performance resulted in a gutsy win in front of a national TV audience, one in which may result in college hoops pundits waking up and taking a look at what Herb Sendek is doing down here in Tempe.

A few observations:
-Those marquee freshmen (Harden, McMillan, Abbott) are really something special. Harden has impressed me all season, McMillan is a tenacious, annoying little guard and Abbott can shoot the lights out.
-ASU really has to get better at rebounding. The Devils admittedly got very lucky at times that Xavier struggled at converting on second chances, because the Musketeers dominated the offensive glass. In a game where the Devils won by 22, they should have out-boarded Xavier by more than 4.
-Jerren Shipp, when on, can be the best player on this team. However, we've seen him more off than on in his short career at ASU.
-I'm putting out an APB for Christian Polk. But I only want him found if he promises to not shoot as much as he did last season.
-I kind of like what I see with Eric Boateng and Jeff Pendergraph in the game at the same time, but I really think the Duke transfer needs to toughen up and make some smarter decisions. I'm hoping he's just shaking off the rust from not playing for a year, but he's looked soft and confused at times this year.
-The 1-2-2 Zone might just be my favorite defense of all time, and ASU ran it like a charm today. If ASU had any chance of winning against Xavier, they had to look at what Cincinnati did to the Musketeers a week earlier, because the Bearcats found a way to slow them down by zoning. ASU threw the zone, Xavier struggled mightily from the outside after the first 10 minutes, and the Devils came away with the victory.
-Building on what T.J. mentioned earlier, I was curious to why Rihards Kuksiks got the start and thought it was also to match-up with the size of Xavier up front. However, he only played 9 minutes and looked largely ineffective because the Musketeers stopped trying to get the ball down low. I feel like Kuksiks is transfer material after this season unless Sendek can find his role on this team.

Devils Dominate #17 Xavier!


The first 90 seconds belonged to Xavier. After that, it was all Arizona State.


Xavier jumped out to an 8-0 lead to begin the game, starting with an alley-oop to high-flyer Derrick Brown. Coach Herb Sendek called a timeout and from then on, ASU's defense set the tone for what would be the Devils' first win at home over a ranked non-conference opponent since 1980...before anyone on ASU's roster was born. This win is also the second straight win over a Top 25 opponent (the other being last year against USC) after losing 21 straight to ranked opponents. It starting to become quite evident that Sendek has turned this program around.


ASU put up their best win of the season in what was truly a team effort. The scoring was spread out and the defensive intensity was electric. The new found depth of the Sun Devils has never been more evident as Sendek received 30 points from his bench, and continual fresh legs on the defensive end.


Sendek started 4 freshman in the biggest game of the season (the new starter being Rihards Kuksiks, I'm guessing because his size matched up better against Xavier's forwards, but I could be wrong...I just don't see him being a permanent starter this season), and the bench played extremely well in the huge win.


The Sun Devil defense held Xavier to a dismal 30.6% shooting from the field and had 7 steals while the ASU offense displayed movement that they hadn't shown all season and had scoring from everywhere. The Devils shot 59.5% from the field, including 10-of-19 from behind the arc. The defense also held Xavier's star point guard and leading scorer Drew Lavender to 3-of-11 shooting and kept him mainly ineffective for the entire game.


The most impressive aspects of this game were the continued brilliance of Sendek's basic zone defensive schemes and the spreading of the wealth on offense. The discipline of Sendek's 3-2 zone (or it could be a 1-2-2, the constant shifts with the pass makes it obscure at times) is really fun to watch if your a hoops head. Holding a team averaging nearly 80 points per game to 55 points on 30 percent shooting is more than signicant on a team full of freshmen and sophomores.


The co-MVPs of this game were Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp, who combined for 36 points, 13 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals with only 1 turnover, but more importantly made all of the hustle plays that don't show up on the box score. The duo continually made the right plays at the right times, including timely threes, pesky defense, and several critical rebounds that really allowed the Devils to control the game. Even more impressive? Abbott has been sick all week, but that didn't slow down the standout freshman from playing the best game of his career, including 5 three pointers on 7-of 10 shooting from the floor.


The Devils play next on Tuesday, December 18 at home against Montana State at 7pm.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mitchell Report Tabs 3 Former Sun Devils

If you paid any attention to your television today, you were with no doubt inundated by coverage of the release of The Mitchell Report, which outed over 70 players in regard to their use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

The names were far-ranging, some obscure and some prominent. From Miguel Tejada to Andy Pettitte to John Rocker to Nook Logan, the hits kept on coming as you wade through 409 pages of legal mumbo-jumbo and 9 1/2 pages alone on Roger Clemens.

Three former Sun Devils were implicated in the report.

If you didn't see this one coming, for God's sake, open your eyes. Barry Bonds name was everywhere in the report as a key figure in the BALCO scandal. His actions implicated several former Giants teammates, including Marvin Benard, Bobby Estalella, Glenallen Hill and others. He graduated from ASU in 1986, ironically with a degree in criminology. During his time as a Sun Devil, he hit .347 with 45 home runs and 175 RBI and was named a Sporting News All-American in 1985, leading the Devils to the College World Series.


Paul Lo Duca was named in the report as well. After walking onto the team at Glendale Community College, Lo Duca transfered to ASU in 1993 and played one year in Tempe. That year was significant though, winning the Sporting News Player of the Year award and being named a finalist for the Golden Spikes award. It was a year in which he hit .446 and had 129 hits.



Fernando Vina played one season at Arizona State before moving on to the big leagues in 1993. He now serves as an analyst on ESPN.





It's in the interest of fair reporting that we inform you of these implications; however, in no way do I believe that this reflects poorly on Arizona State baseball or anything. It's well known that these players engaged in these illegal activities after their time in Tempe. While it's upsetting that any former Sun Devil would be implicated by the Mitchell Report, there's no reason to look at ASU Baseball in any negative light as a whole.

Xavier Preview

As promised, here is a preview of ASU's match-up on Saturday against #17 Xavier. The game will be broadcast nationally on FSN at 2pm. This preview might run a bit long compared to other posts since I don't have any school work to attend to, so you might want to get comfortable...

Who is Xavier?
Xavier University is a private university located in Cincinnati, Ohio with an enrollment of 6,646 students (I tell you this because I watched the Coppin State game wondering the entire time where the hell Coppin State was located - Baltimore, by the way - and I think it benefits everyone to know where obscurely named schools are located).

Xavier's basketball team is the premier program in its athletic department and has had great success over the last two decades by reaching the postseason in 14 of the last 16 years with 11 NCAA tournament appearances (5 of the last 6 seasons), including last year's overtime loss to eventual runner-up Ohio State. Last season, Xavier finished with a record of 25-9 (including a 76-58 win over ASU) and tied for first place in the A-10 conference.

Notable former Xavier players include NBA players David West and James Posey, and former NBA player and Phoenix Sun Brian Grant.

Interestingly enough, Xavier is coached by Sean Miller, a former assistant under ASU coach Herb Sendek. Miller served as an assistant for Sendek for 2 years at Miami (OH) and for 5 years at NC State. Two other members of Xavier's coaching staff also worked under Sendek at Miami (OH).

ASU's home court, is named after former coach and ASU Hall of Famer Ned Wulk, who also coached at Xavier prior to his 25 seasons at ASU and was inducted into Xavier's Hall of Fame as well.

Xavier's Players
While all of that information is interesting, I realize that it doesn't really matter once the game starts. What's important is the depth of Xavier's roster and how ASU will try to match up with it. Last year's matchup between these two teams was dominated by seniors (Justin Cage and Justin Doellman for Xavier and Serge Angounou for ASU), so don't expect to see the same game since they're all gone now. The strength of Xavier's starting lineup is its backcourt. After that, its number of athletic wings and forwards make them a very versatile team. Their depth and versatility makes them a very high scoring team, averaging 81 ppg with six players averaging double figures in scoring. They are also outscoring opponents by a margin of 21.1 ppg. Given that, let's take a closer look at some of Xavier's stars.

Drew Lavender
Lavender is the team's leader and starting point guard. At 5'7", the small PG plays much bigger and has the ability to hurt opposing teams in a lot of ways. Lavender was a McDonald's High School All-American before spending two seasons at Oklahoma, then transferring to Xavier. He is also an All-American candidate and a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award (nation's best PG). Lavender leads the team in points (12.6 ppg), assists (5.3 apg), and steals (1.8 spg) and free throw percentage (90.8% -- interesting given that he never reached 80% in his first three seasons). The senior will be a handful for ASU's young point guard tandem of Derek Glasser and Jemelle McMillan, who haven't faced a point guard of Lavender's caliber yet this year. Lavender dropped 28 points and 10 assists against previously unbeaten Creighton earlier this season and is very efficient as he doesn't take a ton of shots.

Stanley Burrell
Burrell is the Lavender's backcourt partner and as a 6'3" guard, serves as the team's defensive stopper on the perimeter. Burrell held Indiana star Eric Gordon (a 24.3 ppg scorer on 61.0% shooting up to that point) to 4-of-12 shooting from the floor during Xavier's win. Burrell also has the ability to score efficiently and move the ball around the floor, averaging 10.9 ppg and 3.0 apg (second on the team) after being the team's second leading scorer last year. Burrell is an intense player and will be assigned to harass James Harden all game.

Derrick Brown
Brown is a high-flying sophomore with a propensity for dunks. For his career, 50% of his field goals have been dunks. Naturally as a result, Brown shoots a very high percentage from the field and is also the team's best rebounder. Brown can play a bit up and down because of his youth but can turn it on quickly and be a game changer.

Who Has Xavier Played?
Xavier's biggest win of the season came against then #8-ranked Indiana during the Chicago Invitational Challenge as the Musketeers topped the Hoosiers 80-65. Xavier and ASU have both beaten Coppin State this year. The difference? ASU beat them by 17, Xavier beat them by 49.

Xavier's only loss this season is to Miami (OH) by two points in the second game of the season. Xavier's closest games this season have been the loss to Miami (OH) and the win on Wednesday over Cincinnati with a score of 64-59. This bodes well for ASU if the defense can continue to hold opponents to low point totals. If Xavier is getting easy buckets, it will be hard for ASU to keep pace.

How Do We Match Up?
ASU will be smaller on the floor most nights this season as Sendek has generally played one post player and four perimeter players to spread the defense. While its size does not stand out, Xavier is bigger overall and the team's forwards are big and very athletic which could cause problems on the boards for ASU.

The play of the point guards will be important as well as Xavier's backcourt has loads of experience and ASU starts three freshman and its first players off the bench are sophomores. ASU has the advantage of size at the point guard position but Lavender has given up size his entire career and has not been affected. This also shouldn't be much of a factor considering ASU never comes out of its zone defensively so Lavender will have room to operate.

Jeff Pendergraph may have trouble with this team if he is not established early in the offense. After the season opener, Sendek has stopped playing Pendergraph and Eric Boateng together, so ASU's offense generally consists of four players around the perimeter with Pendergraph (or Boateng) flashing to either side of the post.

Xavier switches up its defensive schemes but will likely play a zone unless ASU can hit three pointers early (which the Devils have been doing well the last couple games). Offensively, Xavier likes to push the ball and run up the point totals. The team is very fast and plays the opposite style of ASU. The Devils try to slow everything down and keep the games low scoring. Whoever is able to dictate the tempo will have an advantage.

How Do We Beat Them?
Defense, free throws, and hitting open looks. Pretty simple. Oh yeah, and lots of James Harden.

ASU will not be able to keep up if this game gets high scoring so the defense will need to continue to step up, as it has been under Sendek. One of ASU's biggest strengths on defense is its discipline. Teams have not been able to get many fast break points against the Devils (except maybe Illinois) because the team does a good job of getting back down the floor defensively. Keeping this game low scoring will be important.

ASU has turned around what was a preseason problem of missing free throws and now has the 11th best free throw percentage in the nation at 77.3%. There are six ASU players averaging at least 18 minutes per game and each of them is shooting at least 75%. Harden has the most free throw attempts on the team and is shooting 85.4% from the line. The Devils will need Harden to be aggressive as he is great at drawing fouls while still being able to make the shot in the lane. Free throws are easy points and ASU will need them.

If ASU can knock down the open looks from three point land, the game will become much easier. Harden, McMillan, Jerren Shipp, and Rihards Kuksiks are all shooting at least 40% from outside. Ty Abbott has been a streaky shooter from outside but if he gets going, he can be a big weapon. If he doesn't hit his open looks though, he is mostly ineffective on offense. If the outside shots are falling, ASU can pull Xavier out of its zone and open up penetration for Harden and Christian Polk and hopefully get Pendergraph more touches.

ASU will need a big game out of freshman James Harden. When he is getting into the lane and drawing fouls, it opens up the offense for the other players and makes the offense much more dynamic. There have been times this season where Harden is not as aggressive and the offense goes stagnant. Scoring lulls killed the Devils against Illinois and Nebraska and did the same against Xavier last year. If the offense struggles, Harden needs to step up and be aggressive.

This game will tell us a lot about our young team. Xavier is the best team ASU has come up against so far this year and the Devils will need an outstanding game to have a chance at a win. Xavier is coming off a tough game against Cincinnati and has only 2 days in between games so the Sun Devils could catch a vulnerable team at the right time. Here's hoping....Go Devils!


Oh yeah...that podcast I promised is in the works. I'm hoping to have it posted by Sunday or Monday.

Don't forget to get your picks in ASAP for the 2007-2008 PN Bowl Pick 'Em Contest!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Basketball Update

Well, just after I lament over the weakness of our home non-conference schedule, here comes Xavier. The #17 Musketeers present the toughest challenge of ASU's young season. After knocking off a pesky Coppin State team (which played Ohio State to an 8-point game Monday), the Devils focus on their first ranked opponent of the season. The 6-2 Sun Devils take on the 7-1 Musketeers at 2pm on Saturday and will be broadcast on FSN. I'll have an in-depth look into the matchup on Thursday, but until then I'll whet your appetite with this insightful piece.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

2007-08 PN Bowl Pick 'Em Contest

Since every true American loves college football and pizza, why not combine the two and play in our Bowl Pick 'Em.

It's a contest. With a prize. From your best buddies at Pitchfork Nation.

It's the first annual Pitchfork Nation Bowl Pick 'Em. It's real easy. We'll give you 15 bowl match-ups. You just pick the winners. Whoever has the best win-loss record gets a $20 gift card from our friends at Venezia's New York Style Pizzeria.

If you finish ahead of any of the PN bloggers, you'll get your name mentioned here on this illustrious site for all to see.

Here's the list of bowls. E-mail your picks and the tiebreaker to pitchforknation@gmail.com with your name, the subject line "bowl pick'em" by December 17. Good luck!

Las Vegas Bowl: BYU vs. UCLA
Emerald Bowl: Oregon State vs. Maryland
Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force
Sun Bowl: Oregon vs. South Florida
Insight Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Indiana
Outback Bowl: Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Arkansas
Capital One Bowl: Florida vs. Michigan
Gator Bowl: Virginia vs. Texas Tech
Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas
Sugar Bowl: Georgia vs. Hawai'i
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Illinois
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas
BCS National Championship: Ohio State vs. LSU

Tie-Breaker: Total Points Scored in National Title Game ________

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Basketball Team Cruises


Last night, ASU put another 30+ point beat down on another weak opponent to improve to 7-2. The Sun Devils might have the easiest non-conference home schedule in years which makes for mostly noncompetitive games but at least the Devils are making the most of it and taking care of business. After beating Delaware State by 39, Florida Gulf Coast by 32, and Cal Poly by 34, the Devils next take on national powerhouse Coppin State at 2pm on Saturday at home.


While every Division I team in a major conference plays easy non-conference schedules to pick up early wins and build confidence, you can definitely take more out of a close win over LSU or losses to Illinois and Nebraska than blowing out teams from inferior conferences.


That being said, Delaware State made the NCAA tournament in 2005 so it's not like the program lacks credibility. On the night, ASU did just about everything right, including shooting an unbelievable 82.4% in the second half and 65.2% for the game while holding the Hornets to a dismal 20.8% shooting. The Devils also dished out an impressive 25 assists as a team.


Defensively the Devils looked great by making DSU struggle all night from the field. The post defense stood out the most as every shot in the lane was fiercely contested and the trio of Jeff Pendergraph, Eric Boateng, and Kraidon Woods put up 7 blocks on the night.


Offensively, James Harden once was again the star as he scored 17 in the first half on the way to a game high 24 on 10-13 shooting. Harden makes the game look easy as he can score in a variety of ways but is most effective when slashing and drawing fouls. Harden and Pendergraph also put on an impressive display of dunks and alley oops to keep the crowd entertained.


The surprise on offense was the play of Eric Boateng. Boateng took advantage of the glaring lack of height on the floor for Delaware State and had his most impressive game as a Sun Devil by going 5-5 from the field for 10 points. Boateng has some of the longest arms I've ever seen and he did a much better job of keeping the ball high upon receiving it in the post rather than putting it on the floor in traffic and turning the ball over like he has earlier in the season. He also looked much more aware on defense and hopefully he can continue to develop as the season progresses because he could be a factor for us in the post in the much bigger Pac-10.


While ASU should again win easily against Coppin State, the following Saturday features a matchup against #21 Xavier which should tell us a lot more about the growth of this team.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunday, December 2, 2007

San Diego...Drink It In...

"It's a fact: it's the greatest city known to man. Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego...which of course in German means a whale's vagina." - Ron Burgundy

And that's where ASU is headed. It's the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl for Arizona State in 2007, the cap of an astounding and exciting 10-2 season. ASU last appeared in the Holiday Bowl in 2002, when a Sun Devil squad led by Andrew Walter and Mike Williams lost 34-27 to #6 Kansas State.

Now, I know there's a lot of resentment around Sun Devil Nation that the Devils got snubbed by the BCS. In a sense, they did. A three loss team went to the BCS over two-loss Arizona State (and two-loss Missouri, by the way).

But folks, I'm here to tell you that after being in a room with John Junker and only five other people after their press conference that the Fiesta Bowl did NOT screw Arizona State.

The Fiesta Bowl never even had a chance to select ASU. Want to be mad? Call up the Rose Bowl people and ask them why the hell they felt it was worth taking three-loss Illinois as an at-large team just to preserve a Pac-10/Big Ten match-up which will inherently end with the Trojans turning Juice Williams into...well...juice, I guess.

This is what happened:
1) The pool of BCS teams to select includes 18 teams. 10 of them go to BCS bowls. 6 of them are conference champions and are guaranteed berths in BCS bowls, and one of them is Hawai'i, who is guaranteed a spot. That leaves three at-large berths for 11 remaining teams.
2) Ohio State and LSU finished #1 and #2 in the BCS rankings, meaning they get taken out of their automatic tie-ins and are reassigned to the BCS National Title Game. Oklahoma goes to the Fiesta Bowl because of an automatic Big 12 champion tie in. For the same reason, Virginia Tech goes to the Orange Bowl as the ACC champ.
3) There's a specific rule in the BCS that the bowls who get automatic tie-ins taken away due to the BCS title game get the first two picks to fill in their spots. Not surprisingly, the Sugar Bowl took Georgia from the SEC.
4) Then, for some ungodly reason, the Rose Bowl decided to take Illinois. So, with those two picks, the at-large pool shrinks to one more pick out of 9 remaining at-large contenders.
5) The Orange Bowl was next. They decided to take Kansas, which is important because they got the third and final at-large berth.
6) The Fiesta picked Oklahoma's opponent next and were limited to picking West Virginia or Hawai'i. They took the Mountaineers.
7) As expected, Hawai'i was the token fat kid playing football in elementary school and was picked last by the Sugar Bowl.

Therefore, it's as simple as the fact that by the time it was the Fiesta Bowl's turn to pick a team, they were no longer allowed to select Arizona State.

In reality folks, take a step back too. If you really expected Arizona State to be a Pac-10 Co-Champion and a 10-win team on September 1 and in the Holiday Bowl, raise your hand. Not too many, eh? I know I didn't expect it.

There's still time to be proud and excited about playing Texas in the Holiday, which is still a VERY respected bowl game.

If only he could get in the endzone...




I don't know which is the catch of the year, the McGaha catch from last night or the Kyle Williams catch at Wazzou. I think it's gotta go McGaha 1a, Williams 1b, and then like 3 different Mike Jones catches at 1c.

Two-Liners; State of the Pac-10

The 2007 Pacific-10 Football season has come to a close, and it's time to evaluate where each of the 10 programs in this great conference is at after another hard fought season. The only way to do it, of course, is with two-liners.

Arizona Wildcats
-A program stuck terribly in neutral that really will never go anywhere with Mike Stoops as head coach.
-Rob Gronkowski is the Pac-10's next great tight end.

Arizona State Sun Devils
-What a difference a coach makes!
-One of those only disappointments of this team was Josh Barrett, who came into 2007 with so much hype but lost his starting job before conference started.

California Golden Bears
-After this kind of collapse, you have to wonder if Jeff Tedford really is the kind of guy you want running your program.

-Jahvid Best is going to be the next big thing in the Pac-10; the most exciting player since Reggie Bush.

Oregon Ducks
-I really wanted this team to win the n
ational championship after they beat Arizona State, and what happened to them is just really unfortunate.
-Mike Bellotti, as great of a coach he is, devastated their season when he didn't give Brady Leaf any reps in practice before the UA game.

Oregon State Beavers
-Quietly, a very good season up in Corvallis...did you notice they were 6-3? Me neither!

-They need a quality, Pac-10 quarterback, stat.

Stanford Cardinal
-If Jim Harbaugh stays long enough, he has a chance to really rebuild and inject enthusiasm into a tattered program.

-Their win over USC at the Mausoleum is the upset by which other upsets will always be judged by.

UCLA Bruins
-The next coach of this team (I'm assuming KD will get his walking papers) has a lot of work to do with very few talented skill players.

-Jay Norvell isn't a bad coordinator, once again, he just had no Pac-10 caliber talent to win.

USC Trojans
-Until further notice, this program is still the class of the conference.
-Joe McKnight will be a top 10 draft pick, but J.D. Booty is the worst quarterback the Trojans have had in years.

Washington Huskies
-I feel that this year was the step back before taking two steps forward.
-Jake Locker is a very exciting, dynamic quarterback who will run roughshot over the conference next year.

Washington State Cougars
-This is your new bottom dweller in the Pac-10.
-Whoever takes this program over from Bill Doba has a ton of work to do, especially now that Alex Brink is done.

10-2.

They say a picture says a thousand words.

That picture says:
-10 wins (first time since 1996)
-Three straight Duel in the Desert victories
-Pac-10 Co-Champions (thanks for showing up today, by the way, UCLA)
-A potential BCS berth

The buzz around the press box today was that a victory over Arizona and a Missouri win would garner the Devils an immediate invitation to the Fiesta Bowl. I'm here to tell you that that didn't pan out for obvious reasons.

On a side note, isn't it the most appropriate thing that in a season where 10 #1 or #2 seeds lost and a I-AA school beat the then #5 ranked team in the nation on opening day, that both #1 and #2 lost on the final day of the season?

On to the bowls. GO DEVILS. Another successful year of drubbing the Kitties.

Check back tomorrow after I watch my TiVoed replay for analysis, a "What They're Saying" column and an update on the bowl situation.

My instant analysis for tonight though consists of just this, and it sucks to say it, but: CHRIS McGAHA will NEVER score a touchdown, EVER again. If he didn't score on that amazing, #2 top plays on Sportscenter catch...geez.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's Game Day

You ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like something isn't right in your personal life?

Yeah, I've driven through Tucson too.

Consider this the official final score prediction thread. Look for an abundance of scoring, a little bit of rain and a lot of hatred. GO DEVILS!!!

My prediction: 34-20 Arizona State.

Finally, this one just never gets old:

Friday, November 30, 2007

1 Day Til the Game...Here's Some Links

Dan Zeiger of the Trib reveals his fondest Territorial Cup memories

Josh Barrett is out for his last Cup with an MCL sprain

A Tucson Sun Devil reflects on his years representing the Maroon and Gold south of the border.

Lute Olson is still getting paid his huge salary even though he's been MIA. That is one sick retirement package.

Adam Archuleta talks about his memories of Sean Taylor

The State Press previews the basketball team's trip to Lincoln.

And finally, Arizona corner Antoine Cason talks some smack in preparation for the big game (audio file.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Week in Review


After two blow out wins this week over Cal Poly and Florida Gulf Coast, the Devils are showing an offensive fortitude that was the gleaming weakness of last year's team. Sure the two games this week were against cupcakes, but we played teams of similar skill last year in the non-conference schedule and struggled. The team is averaging 73.6ppg this season through the first 5 games compared to 67.6 ppg last year and keep in mind that the first three opponents this year (Illinois, Princeton, LSU) play a bit tougher D than last year's first three opponents (NAU, Cal State San Bernadino, Portland State). Make no mistake, Sendek's bunch has made strides since last year.


The main reason, beyond Year 2 of the Sendek Era, is freshman phenom James Harden. For anyone who wasn't sure how good Harden would be for the Devils, the freshman is leading the team in scoring (17.6 ppg), steals (2.0 spg), blocks (1.2 bpg), minutes (28.6 mpg) and has only 2 less rebounds on the season than preseason Wooden Award candidate Jeff Pendergraph. With Harden, ASU has a reliable go-to scoring option, as opposed to last year where we would hope that Pendergraph could get through a double team or that Christian Polk could hit a prayer as the shot clock expired.


Moving Jerren Shipp into the starting lineup has helped as well as the sophomore has brought steady experience and a basketball IQ that the young nucleus can learn from. This also allows Polk, Derek Glasser, Antwi Atuahene, and Eric Boateng to come off the bench to provide quality minutes. While the idea at the beginning of the season was that Pendergraph and Boateng could dominate the boards, Boateng is still very raw and ASU has benefited from playing a smaller lineup that has been stellar around the perimeter, and Polk and Glasser have been great off the bench.


Next Game: Sunday at Nebraska, 1 pm on ESPNU


Also, look for a podcast in the coming weeks with more analysis and guests as we get deeper into the season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Need a laugh?


In the spirit of the rivarly and to help get you through your hump day, here are some good anti-UA jokes to drop on your co-workers and "friends" from Northern Nogales Tech. Thanks to our friend 4VRADVL for some of these. Hump day quick links coming later today.

Q: How do you get a UA graduate off your porch?
A: Pay him for your Chinese food.

Q: What's the difference between Arizona's football program and Cheerios?
A: Cheerios have made significant bowl apperances.

Q: What did the average UA football player get on his SAT?
A: Drool.

A teacher once asked a student, who was wearing an ASU shirt, what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which he responded "I want to do what my parents do, no matter what!"
The teacher responded, "Well, what if your mom was a hooker and your dad dealt drugs? Would you still want to do what they did?"
The kid, in all his wisdom, said quickly, "That would never happen, my parents didn't go to the U of A."

Q: How many UA freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, because you have to be a sophomore to have that training.

Q: What do you do if you find a UA fan buried to their neck in cement?
A: Get more cement, of course.

Q: How do you make Arizona Wildcat cookies?
A: Trick question. It's impossible because you can never put Arizona in a bowl.

Q: What's the most likely way for ASU to go to the Rose Bowl?
A: Win the Pac-10.
Q: What's the most likely way for UA to go to the Rose Bowl?
A: Ask for directions.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The State of the Pac-10: 11/24/07

UCLA's Alterraun Verner, in no purposeful way, helped out Arizona State today.

The Oregon Ducks (or at least, a strange, parallel universe version of the Ducks) lost 16-0 to UCLA today at the Rose Bowl, taking control of the Pacific 10 championship straight out Cody Kempt's little hands.

So now, after all three heavyweights have played their Week 13 games, let's reset and take a look at the bowl situation for each team.

USC, at 6-2, is now in control of the Pac-10. A win over UCLA next week at the LA Coliseum puts them into the Rose Bowl regardless of what else happens throughout the Pac on December 1.
NEXT GAME: Vs. UCLA, December 1, 2:30 PM, L.A. Coliseum

Arizona State, at 6-2, needs only now to beat Arizona on December 1 to clinch at least a tie for the conference championship and finish no lower than 2nd in the Pac-10, sending them at least to the Holiday Bowl.
NEXT GAME: Vs. Arizona, December 1, 6:00 PM, Sun Devil Stadium

Oregon, at 5-3, needs both USC and Arizona State to lose and a win in the Civil War to claim a portion of the Pac-10 Title. A win by either of those teams, and Oregon will go to no higher bowl than the Holiday.
NEXT GAME: Vs. Oregon State, December 1, 2:30 PM, Autzen Stadium

And, strangely enough, UCLA still has a shot at a share of the Pac-10. If all three of those teams above lose, there will be a four way tie for 1st place.
NEXT GAME: at USC, December 1, 2:30 PM, L.A. Coliseum

So, in layman terms (minus the blatantly obvious situations), here's what's up:
-If USC and ASU both win, they are Pac-10 Co-Champions, but USC gets the automatic BCS bid by virtue of beating Arizona State. Arizona State would be in line for a BCS at-large invite or a trip to the Holiday Bowl.
-If either of those two teams lose, grab the nearest pile of manure you can find and throw it directly at the nearest fan.

If Oregon wins and...
-USC and ASU lose, Oregon and UCLA would be the co-champions of the Pac-10.
-USC wins and ASU loses, USC wins the Pac-10, Oregon takes 2nd over ASU by virtue of their win over the Sun Devils.

If UCLA wins and...
-Oregon and ASU lose, they tie with USC and ASU (6-3) at the top of the Pac-10, then it gets even messier because then UCLA will have lost to Arizona State but have beaten USC.

You know what? Forget it. My head hurts.

The only thing that matters...the only thing we can control is...
BEAT ARIZONA.

What They're Saying About ASU/USC

And most of it...not surprisingly...not complimentary about Arizona State. That picture is pretty much the story of the season for Arizona State...9-2 or 2-9.

Jeff Metcalfe, Arizona Republic: USC Overpowers ASU
Yup. Pretty much. The numbers don't lie here. ASU got manhandled in every aspect of the football game.

Jeff Metcalfe, Arizona Republic Blog: ASU to Fiesta or Holiday Bowl?
The Holiday Bowl seems likely, the Sun Bowl even more likely and like I've been saying since October, it doesn't make any financial sense to bring ASU to the Fiesta Bowl. It would be great for tradition and the fans, but try selling to Fiesta Bowl yellow-coats and sponsors that half of the fans coming to the game aren't traveling to the Valley.

Paola Boivin, Arizona Republic Blog (2 of them): Erickson is The Man, ASU Gets Dose of Reality
Coach Erickson does have a heart; it shows you just the difference in personality and maturity between Dirk and Dennis. In the other blog, she couldn't be more right...ASU just straight got smacked in the mouth.

Dan Zeiger, East Valley Tribune: USC Feasts on Arizona State
Sad but true folks. Forget about crunching the numbers and hoping for other teams to lose. ASU blew their chance at the Pac-10 Thursday night.

Kyle Odegard, East Valley Tribune: Sun Devils, Carpenter Stuffed by USC
Maybe trash talking to Everson Griffen during the coin toss and during the game wasn't such a great idea, Rudy.

Scott Bordow, East Valley Tribune: ASU Has Its Bubble Burst
Another sad but true. ASU still has a long way to go to be half the program that USC has been since 2002.

Doug Haller, ESPN.com: USC's Defense Serves Notice to Pac-10
Standing on the field, watching this team play their best game since winning the 2004 national title, I've never seen such a fast, intimidating defense in person in my life, pro or college. And I grew up watching Ronnie Lott and the 80's San Francisco 49ers defense.

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: Better Late Than Never
As Bill talked to me about after the game, that's the USC everyone is used to. They just showed up a little late to the party. 508 yards of offense on the road doesn't lie.

Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times: Booty and a Feast for Trojans
Griffen said it best: "We blew them out."

Friday, November 23, 2007

I've had a day to sit on this, and...

...it still hurts.

Bad. Almost as bad as Rudy's bloodied and battered lower lip, which he swore wasn't bothering him after the loss last night.

It was the exact opposite of what we've saw all season: ASU played solid, inspired football in the first quarter and then laid down around the middle of the 2nd. It was disappointing, it was frustrating and it was deflating.

Last night's game proves what I've been thinking all season. While ASU has had a stellar season and is on its way to great things under coach Erickson, there is still a wide gap in program prominence between USC and ASU. It's just the way it is. USC still pulls the best recruits and the best talent from around the nation. There's a reason they're the 5-time defending Pac-10 Champions, and we saw it last night.

I had the pleasure of talking at length to Bill Platschke (of Around the Horn fame) last night, and he actually gave props to Arizona State. He said he came in not knowing what to expect from USC or ASU, but he did mention that if Southern Cal had not played "their best football game since 2005," the Sun Devils could have won the game.

I'm in the process of looking over my TiVo'ed replay of the game, and once I'm done, I'll have some analysis for you.

In the meantime, keep your heads high, Sun Devil Nation. There's still a PussyCats team to dismantle on December 1st, and a 10-win season to accomplish.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for...

In no particular order
  • Playing the Pac-10 championship game at home
  • Not being in Tucson
  • Contract Buyouts
  • Having Ryan Torain in our backfield for as long as we did
  • Erin Andrews on the sidelines
  • 2 wins in Maui
  • Bruce Davis sucking
  • Surprises (Thomas Weber, Troy Nolan, Luis Vasquez)
  • Pedroia
  • 6 for 6 at home so far

That's what I'm thankful for going into this game...

Consider this an open thread...add your own list to the comments.

See you on the field for the post-game party.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Devils Win 2 Straight

That's more like it. ASU bounced back from a difficult opening defeat to look like the resilient bunch that we knew from last year with an added offensive punch. The difference between the loss and the wins? Aggression on the offensive end. Whether it was first game jitters or just a talented, well-coached team in Illinois that pounced on us at the tip, ASU was not attacking the basket in the first game. Against LSU, the Devils attempted 29 free throws. That doesn't happen by accident...Sendek made great adjustments and the players responded.

James Harden has emerged from a disappointing season debut to quickly establish himself as a potent scorer and someone who will take some of the pressure to score off the shoulders of Jeff Pendergraph. While we certainly lack interior depth (Boateng, please stand up), we do have some quality perimeter players. Christian Polk has been great off the bench so far and the point guards have been solid enough in the two wins. Jamelle McMillan and Derek Glasser will need to continue to limit turnovers, distribute the ball, and hit the open shot. Look for these two to improve as the season progresses and I think they will be a huge asset for us.

The problem that ASU will face, especially in the early going, will be relying on whether or not the shots are falling. Ty Abbott has gone 1-6, 5-7, and 1-6 in each of the respective 3 games from behind the 3 point line. Abbott is a streaky shooter, as is Polk, and when their shots are falling ASU will do well. The great thing about this year's team is that even when the outside shots aren't falling, Harden has the ability to get to the hole and draw fouls. This is something that was completely lacking from last year's team. I like our bench but it is easy to see how we will struggle if Pendergraph is in foul trouble and our role players can't get shots to fall. That said, I like this team and I think they'll be a lot of fun to watch this year and all of those freshmen gained some valuable experience while in Maui.

Random Thought: It's impossible not to notice the raw potential of Kraidon Woods. After seeing him play a few times, I'm praying that he can capitalize on his athleticism and become a solid player for us and not waste away like some other gifted Sun Devils I've seen over the last few years (Sylvester Seay, anyone?).

61-42 victory over Princeton

Men's basketball got back on track yesterday with a win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the Maui Invitational. The blog Rumors and Rants traveled to the tournament and are covering every game. Here's their assessment from them on the action:

Arizona State really showed me something in this game. Sure, Princeton isn't on the level with the competition the Sun Devils will face in the Pac-10, but I really liked the way Herb Sendek's team played. They took over in the second half behind freshman and former McDonald's All-American James Harden's 22 points, and pulled away to win 61-42. Sendek has a great group of freshmen, including Harden and Jamelle McMillan (Blazers coach Nate McMillan's son). But the frosh I really liked was Ty Abbot. The kid just has an aggressive, nasty streak that I like. At 6'3 he's a good sized guard who really wants the ball on offense and oozes confidence when he squares up to shoot.
They go on to praise Derek Glasser, talk smack to a ref, give a suggestion for Jeff Pendergraph's mom, and express their disappointment that ASU didn't bring any student section "talent." The Sun Devils take on the Big Baby-less LSU Tigers at noon today on the deuce.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tuesday Quick Links

Thomas Weber is getting a free trip to Orlando for the Home Depot Awards.

ASU has Lil' McMillan , USC has Lil' Romeo

Someone should really get Barry Bonds a paper shredder for Christmas

Scott Bordow plays some "what if" about Dennis Erickson.

Sendek and the boys are favored by 8 1/2 against Princeton today in Maui.

Petey Paramore is getting recognized as one of the top catchers coming into the 2008 season.

Jason Simmons' promise finally came to fruition.

Ouch

Well, between Illinois' repeated 3-point bombs and Jay Bilas's frequent zingers toward ASU's assembled cast of players, let's just say that the season opener didn't go so well. Bilas, known for his undying bias toward Duke, seemed like he'd had too long of a day and maybe a pina colada or two as he continually cracked jokes and barbs about ASU. The real problem though took place on the court where ASU's zone defense was often caught out of position and paid for it by spotting Illinois a 22 point lead early. The game was so bad at the early going, that ESPN2 pulled coverage briefly just 5 minutes into the game. Not much went right but at least we know that it has to get better from here. ASU next plays Princeton, who lost yesterday to Jay Bilas's adoptive sons at Duke.

Bright Spot: Christian Polk played really well. Now if we can get the other 10 guys who played yesterday to follow suit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Waiting for Tonight


ASU officially starts its Men's Basketball season tonight at the Maui Invitational. While I'd love to give you expert words of wisdom and knowledge about how our Devils will match up against Illinois, this team is just too new to really know. To me, tonight's game feels kind of like a blind date. Okay, maybe not an actual blind date but it's like going on a date with a girl that you've seen around campus a few times that caught your attention but you don't really know much about her besides her name. You've done your research (some call it Facebook stalking) and checked out a few pictures, but those don't really count because they're not the real thing. Anyway, tonight is the big night and I'm a bit nervous. Will tonight be the beginning of a new love affair or just a disappointing cheap date? Here's hoping for the former. Check it out on ESPN2 at 9:30pm.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dennis Dixon Just Went from Amazing to Legendary

Dennis Dixon wasn't even the starting quarterback at the end of last season for the Oregon Ducks. He was berated by Mike Bellotti over the summer for playing rookie ball in the Atlanta Braves system rather than training for the 2007 season. Then, he emerged as a Heisman frontrunner and all-around ridiculous athlete as the 2007 season unfolded.

On November 3 against our Sun Devils, he got (what we thought was) a little bit banged up but still led the Ducks to a stirring 35-23 win over Arizona State, cementing the team at the time as a national championship front runner. This past Thursday, we saw Dixon lead his devastating offense over UA for about a quarter (including the TD pictured above) before he bent his knee 90 degrees.

The injury has been diagnosed as a complete tear of the ACL in his right knee.

AN ACL HE COMPLETELY TORE TWO WEEKS AGO AGAINST ARIZONA STATE.

Let that sink in for a minute. The Register-Guard's Rob Moseley, one of my favorite writers in the Pac-10, reported this weekend that Dixon tore the ligament early in the game at Autzen against the Sun Devils. He then convinced trainers to sweep the major injury under the rug and let him continue to play. They hid the injury from the public and his teammates.

He was the catalyst in the ASU win and if the knee had held up, I'm of the opinion that the Ducks would have probably put up 50 and beaten the Wildcats.

I'm sure there will be some scrutiny of the Oregon training staff from keeping the injury mum. Realistically, it's not like they were jsut covering up a sprain or a bruise or something. It was a complete tear of one of the ligaments that, you know, keeps the knee together.

But you have to admire the guts and...well...insert your own term here...that Dixon had. That's the definition of team before individual, something we don't see in sports enough anymore.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Your Saturday Viewing Guide

Wait, there's no ASU football today?

Now, you may feel some urge to do something of value to society today in the absence of a Sun Devil football game. You might feel compelled to wash the car, run errands or take the dog for a walk.

I implore you. It can wait. There's still football on this morning. And here's PN's viewing suggestions for the day.


While you prepare the morning coffee...
10:00 AM: Ohio State at Michigan (ABC)...because it's only the biggest rivalry in CFB and the winner just might meet Arizona State on January 1.
10:00 AM: Northwestern at Illinois (ESPN)...because the Illini...THOSE Illini, could win their ninth game today.
10:30 AM: Missouri at Kansas State (FSN)...because Chase Daniel...still amazing.

When you're trying to figure out how to spend your Saturday night...
12:30 PM: Duke at Notre Dame (NBC)...because there's always room for some comic relief.
1:30 PM: LSU at Mississippi (CBS)...because we need to see if the Bayou Bengals really are the #1 team in the land.
1:30 PM: California at Washington (ABC)...because it can't really get worse for the Golden Bears...can it?

While you're getting ready for a night on the town...
5:45 PM: West Virginia at Cincinnati (ESPN)...because Cincy is for real and West Virginia has national title hopes again.
5:45 PM: Boston College at Clemson (ESPN2)...because one of these underachievers actually will get to play for an ACC title.
6:00 PM: Oklahoma at Texas Tech (ABC)...because that Sam Bradford is pretty damn fun to watch.
6:00 PM: Louisville at South Florida (ESPNU)...because it was easy to forget about Brian Brohm, and they have to win to get bowl eligible.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tucson, AZ: Where BCS Dreams Go To Die

For three consecutive years now...somehow, someway...the Arizona Wildcats have had a major impact on the BCS picture.

In 2005, UCLA went to the Old Pueblo with an unscathed record and quickly fell behind by about 300 points. Last season, an Antoine Cason pick-six led to the 'Cats figuratively calling "BALL GAME" on California's BCS hopes.

Last night, it happened again. And guess who benefits?

Arizona got the benefit of an early Dennis Dixon injury (and if he plays again this season with the way his knee bent, I'll be shocked) and some amazing play from the aforementioned Cason to become the fifth team this season to beat a #2 ranked team. The moral of the story is: if you're given the #2 ranking, find out how you can give it back.

So, the question remains, what does this now do to the Sun Devils? It's fairly simple. Arizona State now controls it's own Pac-10 destiny. They're the last team in the Pac with only one loss. Wins over USC and Arizona put ASU in at least the Rose Bowl. Period.

So in a strange, flawed way, thank you, Arizona. Your team, for the first time, did something to benefit your arch-rivals, and now Pitchfork Nation is salivating about being in the driver's seat for our first Pac-10 Title since 1996.

Now it's time to keep up your good feelings toward your Sun Devil buddies going, and roll over on December 1.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Could this man resurrect another program next season?

Insert the man's name to Google images and you'll see him in pictures coaching 5 different teams just on the first page of results.

That got me thinking...there are many prestigious programs in trouble, and need a coach who can turn around a program in a hurry. Dennis Erickson could be their man, if only for a season. Mercenaries have been a hot topic in the news these days, so let us review the possible teams who could use DE's handywork.

1. Michigan - According to MGoBlue.com, Lloyd Carr is announcing his retirement after the Ohio State rivalry game. Even though the team will be losing quarterback Chad Henne and Heisman hopeful Mike Hart to graduation, the team is in great shape to make a run next year with a defense that will consist of quite a few veterans and a slew of talent on offense. Les Miles has been at LSU long enough where he could depart after the Tigers season ending loss to Oregon in the title game, heading back to his alma mater in Ann Arbor. This situation would leave a door open to another school...

2. Louisiana State - If Les Miles leaves, LSU defensive coordinator Beaux Pelini would be in a great spot to take over (he was rumored to be the front runner for the ASU job at one point in time). Even though it's not resurrecting a program, I'm sure they have a lot of loot to throw his way.

3. Nebraska - Anyone who didn't see Nebraska imploding from a mile away has a bad case of short term memory. The Raiders players were on the verge of mutiny one season after reaching the Super Bowl on the back of some future Hall of Famers and HGH abusers. Callahan is out the door at Nebraska, and is a prestigious program in need of leadership. I'm sure Athletic Director Tom Osborne will probably hire his best man Turner Gill away from Buffalo, but you never know. They also could be looking at LSU's Pelini, who filled in for Frank Solich and led Nebraska to a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the 2003 Alamo Bowl, only to be overlooked during the coaching search in the offseason.

4. Notre Dame - Being the money making machine that Notre Dame is, they can buy out that fat contract of Charlie Weis no matter the price. Just saying, Tyrone Willingham wouldn't have a job with a 1-9 record. To Charlie's defense, they are undefeated in conference. Dennis Erickson would bring instant credibility to the program, Weis is under contract until 2015 and I assume the buyout is one of the main factors stopping any talk of letting Weis go.

Other possible coaching vacancies to fill - UCLA, Auburn, Texas A&M

Not saying that Erickson would skip out on his contractual obligations, since the potential to build Arizona State into a powerhouse seems infinite at this point. There just is the possibility he could be offered millions to go coach somewhere else.