One knock on ASU basketball in recent years has been their pedestrian OOC schedule. Outside of the Hardwood Series between the Pac 10 and the Big XII, and ASU's scheduling of BYU this season and last, the Sun Devils have played a fair amount of cupcakes in the early season.
With the invitation to the Preseason NIT, however, the Devils are about to experience a dramatic increase in Strength of Schedule. Regardless of outcome, ASU will be playing the #9 team in the country, Duke, and then either face #12 UConn or a solid LSU team that is 3-0 on the season.
This serves ASU very well, considering the argument against them in 2007 was their weak SOS. After defeating Arizona (19-14) twice in conference play and having a better record than the Wildcats (ASU was 19-12), UA was still invited to the big dance based on their SOS (and their perceived prestige, I guarantee) while the Devils were relegated to #1 seed in the postseason NIT tournament.
While it is not realistic to expect this ASU team, sans Harden and Pendergraph, to be truly NCAA tournament-caliber, it does not hurt that we are 4-0 and playing well. This ASU squad has a lot of experience, and they have been known in recent years to be a fun team to watch. If the Sun Devils can put up a good fight against their opponents in Madison Square Garden, they will be in great shape come conference play.
Eric Boateng, a transfer from Duke, will be playing motivated basketball on Wednesday night. He has a lot to prove, and will see significant minutes as the #1 center for the Sun Devils. Boateng got into foul trouble against San Francisco the other night, and he will have to make smart decisions in order to stay in the game against the Blue Devils.
The Devils are at a crossroads, where their freshmen are learning from the experience of Glasser, Abbott, McMillan, and Kuksiks. Herb Sendek has developed his team mentally and physically, and the time has come for ASU to put on a show against an excellent Duke team.