After closing out last year's disappointing season with only three wins in their final fifteen games, the Arizona State Sun Devils are looking to climb out of the Pac-12 cellar and back into the realm of basketball relevancy. It seems head coach Herb Sendek is looking to give his young squad an early confidence boost, as their non-conference schedule lacks a single BCS-caliber school (unless ASU advances far into the Old Spice Classic in a little over two weeks).
Montana State seems to fit that morale inflation requirement, as they finished fifth in the Big Sky conference last season (and everyone instantly thinks powerhouse when they hear the words "big" and "sky" together, right?).
The Bobcats (13-18) will also be playing out of their comfort zone in Wells Fargo Arena as they only won two road games last season. Add that to the fact that three of this team's top scorers from last year graduated and this game is having the look of a gimme.
Still, their roster isn't absolutely barren of talent. MSU is lead by sophomores Shawn Reid and Tre Johnson who are both streaky players who can rack up the points in a hurry if they get hot. Johnson led the Bobcats in scoring in their exhibition game against Colorado Christian with 20 points, missing only two buckets in the process (9 for 11).
MSU also dominated the boards against Colorado Christian, 52-29. But don't look for that trend to continue this Friday with the Bobcats' only viable centers being a redshirt freshman and a recent junior college transfer (6'7" Blake Brumwell and 6'9" Mohammed Fall).
In the end, it will be interesting to see if a team that likes to dictate the pace of the game with their defense like Montana State can keep up with the new and improved ASU "Speed Demon" offense (And yes, that is terrible self-promoted pun).
Key Matchup- Ruslan Pateev Vs Mohammed Fall- Look for Pateev to have a big opener against an inexperienced and undersized front court.
What to watch for: Who handles the ball with Chris Colvin on the bench?- It seems lately that Trent Lockett has been the PG by default when Colvin gets a breather. But with Jahii Carson's status still very much up in the air, who else is Sendek going to use to run the new offense?
Media Coverage: Watch on FoxSportsArizona.com or listen live on 620 AM KTAR Sports
Final Prediction: Arizona State 88 - Montana State 69
Taking away nothing from Montana State, this game is mostly about working out the kinks for a team transitioning to an offense closer to the run-in-gun type style that has became more prominent in today's age of collegiate basketball. Expect the Devils to perhaps get off to a slow start while they find their rhythm but the second half wont even be close.