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?


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 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, Tiffany Simons of NBCSports, and Matt Casey of NBC Universal for producing the webshow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007'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

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.


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!

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 today with NBC super-hottie-blogger Tiffany Simons (on the left in the linked pic, obviously) and totally pwned the guy who writes 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 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 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!

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 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.


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: