#2 Arizona State Sun Devils- Coach: Herb Sendek (2nd Year)
PG-Derek Glasser (Jr.)- Glasser was probably the Sun Devils most improved player last season, averaging almost one more assist per game, nearly doubling his assist/turnover ratio, and making a drastic change for the better in his free throw shooting. There is no saying what he can do this year if he improves even half as much as he did last season. Besides being a hard worker, Glasser is a guy that can hide in this offense and defenders will stop paying attention to him when Harden and Pendergraph are at their best, and if you leave Glasser open he has the ability to knock down the outside shot.
SG-Ty Abbott (So.)- Abbott was a bit flaky at times last season, but that is expected when you call on a freshman to play such a big role in your offense (if his name isn’t James Harden). This year I think that Abbott will make a huge improvement and gain the ability to shoot threes consistently. Abbott could be a very important part of this Sun Devils team, and if they want to advance far in the tournament like many know they can, Abbott will need to play some of his best basketball.
G/F-James Harden (So.)- James Harden showed that not only is he one of the best players in college basketball, but his desire to win is up there with the best. Harden exhibited that he is a great competitor that doesn’t want to move onto the next level until he has done his job where he is at right now. He could have easily been a top 15 pick in the NBA Draft and be on the road toward millions, but the chance to win a national championship was more important to him. Oh yeah, and he averaged 17 PPG and shot 40% from three as a freshman.
G/F-Rihards Kuksiks (So.)- Straight out of Latvia, Rihards Kuksiks saw a very expanded role in the offense late last season and provided a bit of a spark for this team down the stretch. Kuksiks is a solid shooter, and if he can keep the momentum from late last season and carry it over to this year, he should play a key role in the offense.
PF-Jeff Pendergraph (Sr.)- Pendergraph will be the glue that holds this team together, not only with his inside presence but with his amazing defense and ability to lead a basketball team. The only problem I see is that from the 2006-07 season to the 2007-08 season his RPG decreased by almost three, which is probably just because he received a more expanded role in the offense. If he can pull down nine rebounds per game this season Arizona State will be in very good shape. Pendergraph is one of the best power forwards in the nation without a doubt, and can lead this team deep into March and maybe even April.
Bench- Eric Boateng, a Duke transfer from London, should see a lot of time at center, and is a great player to have off the bench if ASU needs to guard a big man. Jerren Shipp will be a solid replacement at guard, and when he is on can be deadly from behind the arc. Arizona state also has two solid freshman in guard Johnny Coy and big man Taylor Rohde that will help coming off the bench.
Bottom Line- Arizona State has set themselves up to be one of the elite teams in college basketball, and I really don’t see this team losing many games in the Pac-10. The duo of Harden-Pendergraph is as good as any in the country and will lead this team to an NCAA tournament after having just two conference wins two seasons ago. Herb Sendek has done a great job with this program in the short time that he has been there, and this season is when he gets his sweet reward.
Key Non-Conference Games: Anaheim Classic (11/27-11/30), BYU (12/20)
Key Conference Games: at USC (1/15), at UCLA (1/17), Washington (1/31), UCLA (2/12), USC (2/15), Arizona (2/22)
Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA (Elite Eight)