(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
The Arizona State men’s basketball team will open its season Friday at 8 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena against the Chicago State Cougars, a team that went 13-19 last season. The Cougars belong to the Western Athletic Conference where they finished in fourth place and lost in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament.
ASU left last season off on the losing end of a theatrical buzzer-beater in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to the hands of the Texas Longhorns. This new Sun Devil team will look to integrate its three junior college transfers, freshman pickups and veteran leaders into a unified squad in order to spark another season with NCAA tournament potential, starting with a win in their season opener.
Keys the Game
– Take the Shot
One of the most prominent takeaways from Arizona State’s Maroon and Gold Scrimmage last Friday was something that many believed would be an opposite problem. The Sun Devils played a little too much team basketball as far as passing up open shots. The team just barely avoided numerous shot clock violations rather than taking wide-open shots or driving in vacant lanes. The Sun Devils have to maintain a balance between the team dynamic and knowing when to take the shot if they hope to put up big numbers against a weaker Cougar team.
– Shut down Rosenberg
Clarke Rosenberg of Chicago State is ASU’s biggest threat. The 6-foot-4 senior guard is a playmaker and leader known for his smooth shot. Rosenberg was fourth in the WAC for steals per game, a problem ASU fell victim to last season. If the Sun Devils can keep Rosenberg from producing early, it will hinder the momentum of the entire team.
– Protect the Perimeter
Chicago State is one of the few teams that matches up height-wise with the Sun Devils. Like ASU, the Cougars do not have any man above 6-foot-10 and have a tendency to work the outside shot more rather than trying to post-up against a much taller opponent. If the Sun Devils are strong defensively along the perimeter, it will greatly decrease the quality of shots taken by the Cougars.
Just three seasons ago, Chicago State ended with a total of four wins. While the team has increased its numbers in the win-column, it is still projected to tie for last place in its conference according to the WAC Preseason Men’s Basketball Coaches Poll. If ASU can show some grit and cohesion Friday night, they can easily escape with a comfortable, double-digit win.
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