Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: Conference Season Starts With Arizona State

Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Gotta say I am still having a hard time coming down to earth from the bowl win and adjust back to the basketball season. Thankfully Ryan and Patroclus did the podcast last night which really helped to set the table for a huge home stand for our basketball team to start the Pac-10 season. Bruins get it going today against a tough Arizona State Sun Devils team in an early afternoon start (1:30 pm PST) to get ready for New Year's eve festivities (hopefully we will be a in festive mood). Bruins are coming into this game in a bit of a modest roll winning 3 out of their last 4 games against a 10-3 Arizona State team which is also on 4 game winning streak.

Arizona State is one of the best coached teams in the league which has given Bruins a pretty difficult time under Herb Sendek. They swept the season series last year against Bruins which included a brutal, heartbreaking loss at Pauley during which we forgot how to play Ben Ball defense. Similarly when we were at Tempe last season we lost a close contest due to defensive numerous defensive breakdowns which at the time was not characteristic of a classic Ben Howland coached basketball team. Well Sun Devils don't have Harden and Pendergraph any more but they do come in with a solid, senior leader in Derrick Glasser. Glasser is capable of taking over during crunch time making money shots, draining FTS (he is ASU's best FT shooter of all time at 83.5%) and just making good decisions with zero mistakes. Oh and they can play very effective zone defense, which has given Howland's UCLA team a lot of trouble over the years.

So how can the Bruins zone in and pull out an "upset" this afternoon at Pauley? Well for starters, Bruins will have to concentrate on playing their own brand of tough defense which will hopefully generate some fast breaks and easy shots (pictured above). They will also have to be extremely patient on the offensive side, passing the ball around with a purpose, looking to set up their team-mates with easy shots. From the LA Times:

The defense in question uses principles of man-to-man within a zone framework. It is a big reason Arizona State swept the Bruins last season.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland wants to put a stop to that trend.

"We've got to do a good job of being patient and waiting for it to come to us," Howland said.

UCLA has practiced finding ways to get the ball inside with passes and dribble penetration. From there, the Bruins can score or kick the ball back out to open shooters.

Howland's biggest fear is that his team will settle for quick perimeter shots.

"That's what their zone does," he said of Arizona State. "That zone is effective in that it tries to get you to take mostly outside shots."

Hmm. I wonder if Howland have been conveying that message to Dragobrick all week because he is the biggest culprit on our team in terms of settling for quick perimeter bricks "shots." Howland will also need a steady performance from Jerime Andersen. JA has the tendency of trying to do too much and trying too hard for the spectacular shots and passes. I think JA's biggest assignment today should be to focus on defending Glasser and on the offensive end he will have to work on keeping his composure and setting up his team-mates with good looks. More after the jump.

Sportsline.com has couple of interesting numbers on the SunDevils:

--One of ASU's biggest questions is its ability to rebound. The Sun Devils rank eighth in the Pac-10 in rebounding margin at minus-0.2 and were beaten on the boards in losses to Duke, Baylor and BYU.

--ASU is allowing just 54.5 points per game, best in the Pac-10. Seven of the Sun Devils' first 13 opponents were held to 52 points or fewer.

I am guessing Howland and his staff have zeroed in on the rebounding stats. They will need Nelson, Dragovic, Lane, Honeycutt, and the entire team to crash the boards like crazy to make sure Sendek's guys are not getting any king of second chance opportunities while we can cash in as much as we can on their offensive end.

As for ASU's defense, as mentioned above, we will need a lot of patience from our backcourt combination of Roll, Lee and Andersen. The entire team will need to be extremely disciplined and active on the defensive end. They will have to sharp and crisp in their defensive rotations as Glasser and his team-mates work really well together in stretching the defenses out. More from the LA Times:

Arizona State likes to set screens for Glasser, then roll or slip the screen for a quick pass. Glasser has responded with 74 assists against 27 turnovers.

When he does make the pass, he can look to scorers in swingman Rihards Kuksiks and center Eric Boateng, averaging 11.8 and 8.3 points, respectively.

"They really shoot the ball well from all perimeter positions," Howland said. "That makes it difficult to defend them because they really stretch you out."

Bruins will need to come together on their total team effort which might include the return of James Keefe. If Keefe can come in and give a little boost with some steady rebounding and settling the down offense, it will give a boost to our front-court of the future, which is taking shape with Nelson, Honeycutt and Lane. From the LA Times earlier this week:

A few upperclassmen have been talking to freshmen teammates about turning up the intensity for conference play.

"They just said it's going to be more of a personal thing because it's your league," freshman center Reeves Nelson said. "They want me to be mentally prepared for that."

Nelson and classmate Tyler Honeycutt figure to play significant minutes Thursday. Brendan Lane might also see a lot of minutes.

Keefe suspects they will have to learn on the job.

"They don't know," he said. "I mean, you don't know until you really experience it."

Hopefully their first experience is a positive one starting this afternoon. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 pm PST. Our game thread will go up around 1. See you then.

GO BRUINS.

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