Arizona State Sun Devils
Why They Can Surprise:
If James Harden played at Duke or North Carolina or UCLA he would be a household name. The 6-5 sophomore is only averaging 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals. There is nothing that Harden cannot do for his team and they will rely on him to create opportunities for his teammates and do a lot of scoring himself.
However, the backcourt is not all about Harden. While Harden does pass like a point guard, the Sun Devils have Derek Glasser to fill that position. The junior is not flashy, but he is experienced and rarely turns the ball over. Harden would not get as many scoring opportunities if it was not for the smart play of Glasser. When Arizona State wants even another ball handler on the floor, they will look to Jamelle McMillan. His playing time has been somewhat limited, but he did earn a few starts during the 2008-2009 campaign and did quite well. Coach Herb Sendek has started Glasser, McMillan and Harden and that is a group who can handle the ball and push the tempo when necessary.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Yet, ASU rarely gets the opportunity to push the tempo and get easy buckets. This is not a team that steals a lot of passes or blocks a lot of shots. That does not mean their defense is bad, it is quite the opposite, but the defense to offense transition usually comes off the glass, not off a turnover or blocked shot. The lone forward in the starting lineup is Jeff Pendergraph. The 6-9 senior is a solid scorer around the basket and can hold his own on the defensive end, but the lack of big men is a concern when Pendergraph needs a break. Eric Boateng can grab some boards, but he is not the interior scorer this team needs to open up the outside shot for everybody else.
Who To Watch:
And it is very important for Coach Sendek’s team to have that interior threat since they will depend on the three-point shot. The overall team percentage is not that great since McMillan, Ty Abbott and Jerren Shipp have struggled with their shot quite a bit this season. Harden, Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks on the other hand have not struggled at all. Kuksiks is a 6-6 wing who mans the power forward position and is a match-up nightmare for most opponents. He hit 2.7 three-pointers per game at an incredible 46.5 percent. More often than not somebody is making a lot of three’s and Arizona State can beat anybody when that happens.
Last NCAA Appearance: 2003, Second Round loss to Kansas
Coach: Herb Sendek (6-6 in 6 NCAA appearances)
Derek Glasser, Junior, Guard
Ty Abbott, Sophomore, Guard
James Harden, Sophomore, Guard
Rihards Kuksiks, Sophomore, Guard
Jeff Pendergraph, Senior, Forward
Eric Boateng, Junior, Center
Jamelle McMillan, Sophomore, Guard
Jerren Shipp, Junior, Guard
+ Following final Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!