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.

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