HERB'S HONEYMOON - ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALLHerb Sendek, who we last saw helping to end Leon Powe's college career, takes over in the Valley of the Sun. It's like going from the frying pan to...a place where they don't have a stove or kitchen and in fact haven't eaten a full meal in years. It's a good thing no one's paying attention, Herb - because things could get a wee bit ugly this year.
Good News: ASU's best player is Jeff Pendergraph (left), a sophomore forward who last year averaged 10.9/6.1 and shot 51.5% from the field, which ranked fourth in the entire conference. Stop Pendergraph and you stop the Sun Devils. ASU also returns PF Serge Angounou (5.1 rpg) who averaged 25 minutes last year and guard Antwi Atuahene (7.1 ppg). 5th-year senior Allen Morrill returns from an injury that sidelined him last year. Sendek is a disciplined coach who got pretty good results at NC State while alienating its fan base with his deliberate style on offense. ASU fans won't be so fickle, so long as he shows improvement.
Bad News: ASU lost swingman Bryson Krueger (kicked off team in August for multiple bad-citizen offenses) and guard Kevin Kruger, who joined his father in his effort to finally destroy UNLV basketball. Between them, ASU has lost 27.3 ppg of scoring, and their two best threats from the perimeter. The Devils will try to replace the scoring with two freshmen - Christian Polk and Jerren Shipp (who I'm reasonably confident will be the last of the Shipp brothers to play in the Pac 10). It's not clear Atuahene can get the ball inside to Pendergraph on a consistent basis. Someone (Polk?) needs to step up on the perimeter to replace Kruger's 3-point shooting to open things up. The Sun Devils struggled mightily to beat exhibition punching bag U of Victoria of Canada, who lost to the UofA by 55 points.
New Faces: Sendek is of course the most important one, but early reports indicate that the young Devils are struggling to master his Princetonian system of screens and back-door cuts. Herb has a great class coming in, including Duke transfer Eric Boateng who will sit out this season - and figures to have much better talent in 2007-08, when his guys finally understand how to run his offense. In addition to Shipp and Polk, another freshman - Derek Glasser - will back up Atuahene at the point.
Prediction: 9th place. Sendek has correctly set expectations low for the 225 fans who follow ASU basketball, so this is his Honeymoon Season. He needs to install the offense, find a shooter or two, and hold down the fort until next year, when the Sun Devils figure to challenge for a postseason berth.