Nebraska vs. Arizona State
Second-year coach Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils have started the year off eager to show off their growth after the pains of last season. Sendek’s squad suffered through an 8-22 season, including a 14-game losing streak. Close losses plagued the Sun Devils, as its youth showed in late-game situations.
Five games into the 2007-2008 season, Arizona State has demonstrated great talent and solid team-oriented play. Freshmen James Harden and Ty Abbott are leading the squad in scoring, along with great support from junior forward Jeff Pendergraph. Harden is averaging 17.6 points/game and is an NBA prospect for certain. As a squad, the Sun Devils are still extremely young. Three freshmen (Hardin, Abbott, and Jamelle McMillan) start and only one senior (Antwi Atuahene) is found on Sendek’s roster. As this team continues to progress this season, they will surely give many Pac-10 foes a fit. Should everyone return next year, watch out for the Sun Devils, as the talent is in place.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers come into the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series at 4-1, losing at in-state rival Creighton. The Huskers are led by 6-11 Senior center Aleks Maric. Maric leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 16.6 points and 9.2 rebounds/game. NBA scouts are drooling over the versatility of his game, as the Aussie has the ability to be a matchup problem not only for the Sun Devils, but also at the next level. Maric gets support from Ryan Anderson and Age Dagundoro. Anderson, a 6-4 sophomore paces the Huskers from behind the arc and averages 8 points/game. Dagundoro, a 6-5 guard, is a junior-college transfer who has added an athletic dimension to the squad. Nebraska also benefits from the strong play of guard Jay-R Strowbridge, steady hand at point guard and an accurate long-distance weapon. Coach Doc Sadler has a strong shooting team, as the Cornhuskers have landed 50.2 percent overall from the field.
Big Picture: Neither of these teams is expected to be in the NCAA Tournament. However, this is not college football where people simply vote on the good teams. Each will have the chance to play its way into the Big Dance. Arizona State has already gained a solid resume by playing Illinois, Princeton, and LSU in the Maui Invitational. Another game versus Xavier awaits, plus a tough Pac-10 slate. Nebraska travels to Wastern Kentucky and Oregon, while also hosting Rutgers. Both of these teams will have to win some of these non-conference games in order to get on the national radar and the NCAA Tournament bubble. In this particular contest, Nebraska’s experience and hot shooting should prevail.