Arizona State Sun Devils
Overall Rank: #15
Conference Rank: #2 Pac-10
2007-08: 21-13, 9-9, 5th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Many believe Arizona State should have made the NCAA Tournament last year. Even if they did not deserve it, they were certainly one of the last teams out. Instead the team made a nice little run in the NIT. Coach Herb Sendek has turned around the Sun Devils program and now it is time to reap the rewards. With seven players returning who started at least a dozen games a year ago, the team has the talent and depth to not just make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003, but make some noise once they get there.
Antwi Atuahene, Christian Polk and Steve Jones are the only losses. Polk was a decent outside shooter and averaged 3.5 points per game and Atuahene started four games, but these are not big losses that will cause any concern.
There are a lot of new names on the roster, but there is really only one player who is expected to make an impact on the team right away. Small forward Johnny Coy will do a little bit of everything. The seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies can do more than hit a curveball. He is steady scorer, a quality ball handler, a worthy shot blocker and a stronger rebounder than he looks. He should play a pivotal role off the bench right away. The only other newcomer who could see significant action is Taylor Rohde. On a team that often struggles with frontcourt depth, Rohde will get an opportunity as a freshman. Stephen Rogers and Trent Anderson will bolster the frontcourt with a couple more bodies. Nico Fricchione, Virgil Sanders and Brenton Thomas are the newcomers in the backcourt. None are expected to contribute much this year, but they could play a larger role in the years to come.
Who to Watch:
The reason the Sun Devils do not need any depth on the perimeter is because five guards are back who started 16 games or more a year ago. James Harden wasted no time showing that he will be one of the best ASU players of all time. As a freshman the 6-4 guard averaged 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals. He was even second on the team in blocked shots and hit nearly 41 percent of his attempts from long range. It is rare to find a player who does all those things, but it is even rarer to find somebody who does them all so well. At any given moment Harden can take over a game and he will do that quite a few times before this season is over. Ty Abbott was the other guard who started just about every game a year ago. Abbott hit 76 three-pointers on the season, setting a record for ASU freshman. His overall shooting percentage could be better, but Abbott did hit some big shots and his consistency should improve now that he is a sophomore. While Harden and Abbott do the scoring out of the backcourt, Derek Glasser will get them the ball. The 6-1 junior is not the best shooter around, in fact he takes too many outside shots, but he is a decent ball handler…as is Jamelle McMillan who started 16 games as a freshman. Jerren Shipp will play a valuable role off the bench. The 6-3 junior has more experience than most of his backcourt mates and he can also emerge as a decent shooter off the bench.
Last year Jeff Pendergraph was the unquestioned leader. The 6-9 forward is the only senior on the roster, but he could give up some of his leadership role to the youngsters in the backcourt. Either way, Pendergraph is a steady scorer with an increasingly productive mid-range jumper and he is also the best rebounder and shot blocker on the team. Coach Sendek knows what he is going to get out of Pendergraph, but it is the rest of the frontcourt that has some concerns. Rihards Kuksiks is a smart player and a good glue guy, but can he help out more on the glass and have a breakout sophomore season? Kraidon Woods is another option, but ASU hopes Eric Boateng can step up and have a productive junior campaign. Boateng, a 6-10 center, did improve late last season and now the Sun Devils hope he can put it together for a full season. Otherwise, Arizona State’s weakness will be their lack of depth in the frontcourt.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Derek Glasser, Junior, Guard, 6.1 points per game
Ty Abbott, Sophomore, Guard, 9.9 points per game
James Harden, Sophomore, Guard, 17.8 points per game
Rihards Kuksiks, Sophomore, Forward, 5.4 points per game
Jeff Pendergraph, Senior, Forward, 12.4 points per game