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Hoops hopes high for ASU teams


November 12, 2008

ASU is tipping off the college basketball season with national recognition and high hopes for both the men’s and women’s squads.

Both teams started their season with games Nov. 14 at Wells Fargo Arena. The women opened with a 76-59 victory over Cleveland State in the opening round of the preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The men followed with a 80-64 victory over Mississippi Valley State.

The women also defeated Tulane 86-53 Nov. 16, in the second round of the WNIT.

The two teams begin the year nationally ranked in the preseason polls. Sports Illustrated has ranked the women's hoops team No. 15 and the men No. 16 in its College Basketball Preview issue. The magazine, on newsstands now, is highlighting the two ASU teams on the cover for one of its six regional editions. The other regional covers include players from North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

The Associated Press poll has ASU No. 17 in the women’s preseason poll and at No. 15. in the men’s version. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, the men rank No. 15, with the women at No. 18.

For the women’s team, the acclaim is standard practice. The team finished 22-11 last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Two years ago, the team made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, falling one game short of the Final Four.

The 2008-09 Sun Devils return 11 players, including three starters - senior guard Briann January and senior posts Sybil Dosty and Lauren Lacey.

“Our team is really motivated to get back to where we were two years ago when we were one win from playing in the Final Four,” says ASU head women's basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne. “I think we have several players on this team who know what it takes to win at the highest level and that is very exciting. I feel like we have the mentality of a team that is looking forward to having a special season.”

On the men’s side, the Sun Devils are entering new territory with the national recognition. It is the first time since 1991-92 that the team has been in the preseason AP and ESPN/USA Today polls.

"I think expectations are a good thing,” says ASU head men’s coach Herb Sendek, entering his third year with the team. “I'm glad that people are talking positively about Arizona State basketball. I'm glad we're in the discussion. I don't want to shy away from that. We welcome that. It certainly beats the alternative.”

Last year, the team finished 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 and posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years after being picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll.

The Sun Devils return their top seven scorers and 94.6 percent of their scoring in 2008-2009 led by All-Pac-10 selections James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph.

"Our guys have a very nice balance of humility,” says Sendek. “They recognize that they have a great deal of work to do, offset by a reasonable self confidence, a sense of sureness about themselves. I don't see them getting carried away in either direction.”