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.