I don’t hate the Sun Devils, but, personally, I can’t stand their coach Bobby Hurley. I’ve just never liked the guy, going all the way back to high school in NJ where he played for his dad at perennial state champ St. Anthony’s. Perhaps it was his time at Duke that really cemented that. I don’t know.
But, love him or hate him, he has turned the Sun Devil program around. His first two teams at ASU were mediocre, at best, and actually finished with worse records than ASU had in Herb Sendak’s final season. But, last year, Hurley led his team to a 20-12 mark as they were selected to play in the other First Four game. So far this season, the Sun Devils are 13-5 and 4-2 in a bad Pac-12 Conference.
That isn’t to say the Sun Devils are a “good” basketball team.
Sure, they’ve gotten some signature wins against Ben Howland’s Mississippi State Bulldogs along with the Kansas Jayhawks. In the Pac-12, they swept the Oregon State Beavers and Oregon Ducks. But, at the same time, they’ve also lost to the likes of the Nevada Wolfpack, the Vanderbilt Commodores, and the Princeton Tigers in non-conference play while also losing to the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinal in the Pac-12.
So, they’ve been inconsistent.
Yet the Sun Devils seem to be an interesting matchup for the Bruins. Since Murry Bartow took over UCLA, the Bruins have improved their defense. The Sun Devils seem to have a diverse offense. They have five guy averaging double figures. Freshman guard Luguentz Dort leads the team with an average of 16.4 points per game. Sophomore Remy Martin, who played at Sierra Canyon HS in Chatsworth, is second with 12.3 ppg and redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham is third with 12.1 ppg. Rob Edwards is also averaging double figures with 10.3 ppg as is forward Kimani Lawrence who is averaging 10.2 ppg. Redshirt sophomore Romello White, who’s averaging 9.0 ppg and who is making 62.9% of his shots, looks to be the Sun Devils’ fifth starter along with Dort, Martin, Cheatham and Edwards based on the ASU lineup against Oregon last weekend.
Defensively, the Bruins will need to keep Cheatham off the boards. He leads the team with 130 defensive rebounds and 303 total. He accounts for 25% of the Sun Devils’ defensive rebounds. So, if the Bruin big men can box him out, UCLA may be able to grab more offensive rebounds.
If the Bruins can get the early lead, they’ve got to look out for a possible second half comeback by Arizona State. The Sun Devils have 18 second half comebacks under Hurley. Of course, the Bruins have seemingly become the experts of the late comeback as well under Bartow. Not only did UCLA have that amazing comeback win over Oregon, but they also managed to cut Southern Cal’s lead almost in half during last week’s loss.
Overall, it should be an interesting game tonight. I think UCLA will take it, due mostly to the fact that the game is being played at Pauley. But, will the Bruins draw a bigger crowd for tonight’s game than UCLA gymnastics did against the Sun Devils on Monday?