UW Basketball: Huskies Still Prepping For 1-5 Arizona State's Zone As Though It's Functional

The 1-5 Arizona State Sun Devils visit the Washington Huskies, with a zone that sometimes seems to deploy seven players at time, according to Lorenzo Romar. Game time is at 1 p.m. PST on FSN.

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UW Basketball: Arizona State's Poor Rebounding Bodes Well For A Huskies Win

The more you read about the Washington Huskies' 1 p.m. game today, the more bleak the outlook becomes for Arizona State.

azcentral.com blogs - Doug Haller on ASU basketball - DougHaller - ASU-Washington State rewind
This is the first time all season where I thought ASU lacked effort. The Sun Devils, minus three players, including starter Carrick Felix, played as if they didn't think they had much of a chance. They opened with energy -- crashing the offensive boards -- but once Washington State built a lead, they seemed to accept their fate, especially in the second half. Nothing worse than a desperate team playing without desperation.

Yeah, there's a reason they play the games and all that, but UW has the capacity to demoralize a team as quickly as anyone with their defense and athleticism at all five positions.

Making matters worse is that ASU isn't even poised to exploit UW's biggest weakness.

Key statistic: ASU is not at all a good rebounding team

The one proven way to beat the Huskies is to beat them on the glass, particularly on the offensive glass - Arizona's first half rebounding on Thursday led to an 8-3 advantage in second-chance points.

Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the Sun Devils will be able to replicate that.

College Sports Matchups | Preview: Arizona State at Washington
KEY STATISTIC: The Huskies’ post players like their matchup against the Sun Devils. Washington averages 40.7 rebounds and figures to get plenty of second chances against Arizona State’s guard-heavy lineup, which ranks last in the Pac-10 in rebounding margin.

Just to put ASU's rebounding struggles in perspective, they are currently 291st in the nation in rebounding percentage this season and that's only gotten worse during conference play.

As Doug Haller of AZCentral.com describes, rebounding is just one of many things that this relatively young team is struggling with right now.

Do you feel like you need to go back to the drawing board?

"Right now our deal isn't to come up with some master trickery. We're a team right now that has to learn how to block and tackle. There's no genius plan. That's not what is necessary right now. We got to have guys produce and perform and we have to get better at the very basics of the game.

And although they do have two seven-footers on their roster, UW coach Lorenzo Romar suggests that they're still just in the middle of a rather standard learning process for big men.

"Eric Boateng - another seven footer, 6'11" - as time went on, I remember at the end of the year they were going to him exclusively," said Romar when asked specifically about the development of ASU 7-foot-2 freshman center Jordan Bachynski. "I remember, against UCLA at Arizona State, they couldn't stop it - they just kept going to him. But You couldn't have convinced that that would've been the case early in his career. So it does take big guys a little longer at times."

But for today, they're going to have to find someone to help in the boards while their younger bigs - Bachynski and 7-foot sophomore Ruslan Pateev - learn to "block and tackle".

Players to watch:

Kyle Cain, F (6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Fr.)

Cain hasn't started since early in conference play, but still leads the team in rebounding with 6.1 per game and is their best rebounder by percentage on both ends of the court. If the Sun Devils hope to contend on the boards, he'd still likely be a major factor in that.

Given the team's shooting percentages as well, his scoring efficiency - third on the team - might also be useful, although he hasn't been a major factor in the scoring column

Trent Lockett, G (6-foot-4, 210 pounds, So.)

While Romar noted that seniors Ty Abbot and Rihard Kuksiks shoulder the majority of the burden for this team, Lockett - the team's second-leading scorer - is arguably their most valuable player statistically. In addition to being the most efficient score on the team, Lockett has the team's highest free throw rate, which means a lot given their occasional scoring struggles.

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UW Basketball: Huskies Still Prepping For 1-5 Arizona State's Zone As Though It's Functional

It's not exactly a secret that the Arizona State Sun Devils are having something of a down year at 1-5 in conference play after a rough 78-61 loss against the Washington State Cougars in Pullman on Thursday.

But that certainly doesn't mean that Washington Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar is overlooking them as they prepare a 1 p.m. meeting with the Sun Devils at Hec Edmundson Pavilion tomorrow.

"I never go into an Arizona State game not being worried," said Romar today during a chat with reporters on an arena floor prepping for gymnastics. "You always respect every opponent you play against. You always want to respect them - fear none, respect them all. But Arizona State can make it a little complicated for you to where you better be organized, you better know what you're doing going into that game or they can give you problems, they can give you fits."

ASU is known for their aggressive matchup zone that can both apply pressure and shift so quickly that it's hard to find ways to break it.

"They have an ability to extend their zone and really get after you where you feel you have to go somewhere and make a play, but yet they're covering for each other," said Romar. "They move quickly and it seems like they're seven of them out there at times."

Unfortunately, on Thursday night, the only team given fits by Arizona State's zone was Arizona State, according to Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic.

Short-handed ASU basketball falls at Washington State
It was hard to find a silver lining. Not with the Cougars (14-5, 4-3 in the Pac-10) bullying ASU inside. Not with Washington waiting in Seattle on Saturday.

"Our defense gave us no chance to win," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "I don't have any easy answers. I don't have any quick fixes in my back pocket. It's obvious we're really struggling in some areas, and we have to keep working to get better. I don't have a Knute Rockne speech that's going to work."

So as Haller asked in his article, where do they go from here?

To Romar, the only direction they can go is up - these struggles might just be part of the process of acclimating new personnel to a complex defensive scheme. So just as opponents normally to address to them, right now players could be adjusting to what they're trying to do.

"New players - that zone, I guarantee you, you go to practice, you're not going to learn that zone in one day how to do it and I think it's something that you have to be a little bit more experienced at," said Romar. "It could take a while for it to get going; sometimes during that process, maybe you lose confidence and other times it clicks. So I don't know what the case is with Arizona State now. I know you watch them go out against Arizona at Arizona, you watch film of that game in the beginning it's 9-2 Arizona State right off the bat and they're playing with a lot of confidence. They weren't able to sustain that for 40 minutes."

And if sustaining defensive intensity for 40 minutes is a problem against a team that UW just overwhelmed in the second half yesterday, then ASU could be in for a long night in Seattle.

Of course, those problems have only been compounded due to illness: against WSU, ASU was without three players and an associate head coach, but most notably without starting sophomore wing Carrick Felix. Unfortunately, as Haller noted, that didn't work out so well. 

The Sun Devils might have missed Felix the most. His aggressive, attacking style has brought a different dimension to ASU's offense, which has struggled all season. Without the athletic sophomore, the Sun Devils relied on their outside shooting, a touch they haven't had in some time.

It didn't work. ASU shot 32.8 percent, missing 10 of 29 from 3-point range.

So no doubt, the odds definitely stand against the ASU Sun Devils. However, with there being a long line of teams still challenging for a Pac-10 regular season title, Romar expects to prepare his team as though he's playing against the fully functional, dangerous Arizona State teams we've become accustomed to.

"It's one of those type of zones where if you were to play them in the first round of the NCAA tournament and it's something you don't face everyday it could really give you problems," said Romar. "It could give us problems tomorrow. So we have to make sure that we're detailed in how we want to go at it."

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