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?).