Monday, February 2, 2009

The Weekend from Hell

SHAMLESS PLUG: Don't forget about tomorrow's PFN Live Chat, 6:00 PM right here at Be there!

The good news for Arizona State, at least today, is that Justin Dentmon left Tempe on Saturday night and he's never coming back.

The bad news is that, barring their early departures, Isaiah Thomas and Klay Thompson will be back. Three more times each.

An 84-71 loss on Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena sunk the Sun Devils today from 14th in the nation to nearly out of the rankings. Our beloved Sun Devils now sit at #24 and #23 in the two major college basketball polls and most likely now sit about one loss away from the dreaded "receiving votes" category.

This weekend of basketball was an unmitigated disaster for Arizona State. It was disastrous for several reasons:

1) It resulted in a horrendous shift in the Pac-10 Standings. With UCLA's sweep of the Bay Area, they and Washington now sit tied atop the standings, two full games ahead of Arizona State. USC also manhandled California on Saturday night, moving them to 6-3. The Golden Bears and Sun Devils, both victims of an 0-for this weekend, are tied for 4th at 5-4...Cal of course having the tie-breaker with their head-to-head win...and both now sitting just one game ahead of the Arizona Wildcats. Speaking of the Cats...

2) The Devils lost to two teams that the Arizona Wildcats absolutely rolled. Washington's disgusting defense let the 'Cats put up 106 points on Thursday night. Two days later, Arizona trapped and pressured Washington State into mistake after mistake in the 2nd half as the Wildcats built up a double-digit lead midway through the 2nd half. They used this pressure to neutralize Klay Thompson; in effect, they did what the Devils should have been doing.

3) The Devils matchup zone is now in a state of disrespect. Tony Bennett said it himself after the game on Thursday: why should his Cougars run anything else other than perimeter shots from their outside gunners when he KNEW Arizona State wasn't able to throw anything at them defensively other than their zone? Complete defensive breakdowns in back to back games don't impress the Selection Committee. It then all happened again on Saturday when Dentmon and Thomas found themselves wide open nearly every time they wanted to take a long range shot. The Sun Devils looked tired, confused and frustrated throughout their loss to Washington...a foreign concept to me seeing as that even two years ago, when the Devils were the worst team in the Pac-10, that team even ran the zone better than this team did on Saturday.

4) Arizona State now only currently holds tiebreakers with one team ahead of them...and that's UCLA, who seems primed to take advantage of this ASU meltdown and start to run away with the conference again. The Devils have now lost to Washington, USC and California in the first go around, and if the Devils can't take advantage of their rematch, ASU will find itself in a very unfortunate situation if conference play continues to be as tight as it is right now.

5) Rihards Kuksiks' production has dropped from slim to none. You could tell early on in the WSU game that Rik has lost a ton of confidence in his long range shooting. When our favorite Latvian is not clicking, his shooting motion clearly changes. It goes from a quick, confident release to a slow, deliberative motion. To me, it gives him too much time to think about the shot, and it's what we saw out of him early in his career when I said, on this site, that I thought Kuksiks would be a transfer candidate. The goal is clear for Kuksiks: stop thinking and the shots will fall.

It's now or never for the Sun Devils. There are nine regular season games left for the Sun Devils and five of them are at Wells Fargo Arena. The two games coming up for the Devils in Oregon are, in my mind, must wins.

These games against Oregon State, who the Devils completely smoked last month, and 0-9 Oregon will give them chances to work out these kinks. The games could not be coming at a better time for a team whose confidence is obviously teetering on the brink. And they'd better get it in gear in those games, because visits from UCLA and USC the week after won't give them any chance to try and recover.

SHAMELESS PLUG (again): Let's talk about all of this more tomorrow in the Live Chat, right here at at 6:00 PM.

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