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!