It's out with the old and in with the new for Arizona State basketball. The Bobby Hurley era begins Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena, and with it comes a stark change in style of play from the Herb Sendek era.
The new Sun Devils will play with a much quicker tempo, forcing the issue on the offensive end of the court with every possession. Also different this season is the implementation of a 30 second shot clock, which is supposed to increase scoring and make the sport as a whole more "watchable". The shorter shot clock was given a trial run during a few postseason tournaments last spring, so the maroon and gold did get to play with it a couple of times during their NIT run.
The exhibition season starts (and ends) for Hurley's team tomorrow in Tempe. Looking to spoil the fun will be the Western New Mexico Mustangs, coming out of the Rocky Mountain Athletic conference in Division II.
What To Watch For (ASU):
Just how long will it take to get rid of the growing pains? There are bound to be some when attempting to execute a brand new offense, and Arizona State will need to get rid of them as soon as possible with the regular season starting next Friday. A big help in that process should be South Plains (TX) transfer Andre Spight. The shooting guard has had an impressive training camp and according to reports, played well in last week's closed scrimmage at Long Beach State. How he and sophomore Tra Holder coexist in the backcourt will go a long way in determining success for this new offense.
What To Watch For (WNM):
The Mustangs struggled early and often with their own offensive play in their first exhibition game. They traveled to Las Cruces to face New Mexico State on Monday night and ended up limping out with an 80-39 loss. They did however force 21 turnovers, and while preseason games are generally pretty sloppy affairs, that is a good number. The leader of the defense is forward Adam Saenz, who recorded three steals and a block in the defeat. Sun Devil fans will want to keep an eye on the 6-foot-3 sophomore, because he is the closest thing to a Division I defender they will see until the regular season begins.
Keys to victory:
1. Get Spight and Blakes going
A quicker tempo means more possessions, and more possessions means more shots. The biggest beneficiaries of that new system should be the team's off guards, Spight and Gerry Blakes. We don't know which one will be starting at the two spot, but both will receive their fair share of minutes. If they can get going early and open up the floor for the rest of the offense, the maroon and gold should be all over the visitors from the outset.
2. Take care of the ball
The simplest keys are often the most important ones. Western New Mexico will play stingy, in-your-face defense, and the last thing you want to do is turn the ball 20+ times to give them confidence. Arizona State is bigger and more athletic, and if it plays smart basketball, it should not struggle.
3. Show up
Even if the Sun Devils throw the ball away all afternoon and Spight and Blakes combine to go 1 for 20, they should still win this game. The Mustangs are in rebuilding mode, and they aren't building with much. This exhibition is more about getting all the kinks out and shedding some rust before the real thing starts next week.
Prediction: Arizona State - 90, Western New Mexico - 45