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Men's hoops tips it against Mississippi Valley State for season openner

November 11, 2008

JUMP IT UP: The Arizona State's men's hoops team, 21-13 and 9-9 in the Pac-10 last year, opens its third season under head coach Herb Sendek ranked in the national preseason polls for the first time since the 1991-92 season as they host Mississippi Valley State on Friday, Nov. 14, at 8:15 p.m. MT on Fox Sports Arizona and ESPN 860 AM. ASU posted a 20-win season for just the fourth time in 27 years last year 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. ASU notched nine Pac-10 wins for just the third time in the past 13 seasons (11-7 in 2002-03 and 10-8 in 1999-2000) and notched wins over RPI top-60 teams Xavier (9), Stanford (14), USC (28), Arizona (twice, 37) and Oregon (58). Freshmen made a league-leading and school record 96 starts, played more than 47 percent of the minutes and scored more than 52 percent of the points.

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD NOTE LAST YEAR, BUT WE MISSED IT, BUT IT IS STILL SOLID: ASU became just the second team in the 30-year history of the Pac-10 to lose at least 20 games one year (ASU was 8-22 in 2006-07) and then win at least 20 the next season (ASU was 21-13 in 2007-08). Only California in 1988-89 can match the feat, as it was 9-20 in 1987-88 and 20-13 in 1988-89. Miami (Fla.) also notched the feat last year, going 22-10 after going 12-20 in 2006-07, the first time in the ACC's 55 seasons that has happened. Texas A&M is the only team to do it in the 12-year history of the Big 12 , as it was 7-21 in 2003-04 and went 21-10 in 2004-05. Among the other major conferences, this manufactured note has never happened in the Big East (28 seasons), Big Ten (103 seasons) or the SEC (76 seasons).

ABOUT THE FIRST THREE GAMES: ASU has never played Mississippi Valley State, its first opponent, but Herb Sendek knows its coach very well. Woods was the point guard for Kentucky when Coach Sendek was an assistant coach for the Wildcats and both were on the floor in arguably one of college basketball's best games, when Duke topped Kentucky in the 1992 Regional Final. Woods actually put the shot to put Kentucky up prior to Laettner's heroics...ASU plays at San Diego State on Nov. 18, its first meeting against the Aztecs since a 64-62 loss at SDSU on Dec. 16, 2000. Awvee Storey hit a half-court three-pointer at the buzzer that was orginally called good, but after reviewing the replay the bucket was disallowed. The Sun Devils were not good in the first half, posting just 17 points (at the time fewest since November of 1991) and shooting 6-of-25 from the field. It was just 14-of-26 (.538) from the free throw line in the game. ASU leads the series against SDSU 14-10, but the Aztecs were 20-13 last year and five starters and eight lettermen...ASU plays Pepperdine for the first time since a 101-83 Sun Devil win on Dec. 4, 1967. Pepperdine leads the series 10-6, but ASU has won the last four.

AP PRESEASON RANKING NOTE: The Associated Press ranked ASU 15th in its preseason poll (Oct. 31), the Sun Devils' first preseason AP ranking since 1991-92 (24th), the second-highest preseason ranking in school history (1963-64 team was sixth), and the fourth time overall (other time was 18th in 1975-76). Last year, for the first time since the final poll of 1994-95 (March 13) ASU grabbed a spot in the Associated Press rankings, as it was No. 22 (No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches' poll) on Jan. 14. Coach Sendek had the Sun Devils in the rankings in his second year, two years prior to his rebuilding effort at NC State that resulted in five straight NCAA Tournament appearances (2002-06).

USA TODAY #15 PRESEASON RANKING NOTE: ASU is 15th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll (announced Oct. 30). USA Today started the poll in 1991-92 and that is the only year ASU has been in the preseason top 25, when it was No. 22. ASU got thumped twice in Maui to start the year after suspensions hit and fell out of the polls before even playing a home game.

OTHER RANKINGS: ASU has hit the preseason rankings and here they are...13th by Lindy's...14th by ESPN's Andy Katz...15th by Sporting News and Blue Ribbon...16th by Sports Illustrated, and Athlon...18th by Dick Vitale and CBS Sports...25th by

POPULAR ON THE TUBE LOCALLY: According to Nielsen Media Research, ASU's men's basketball television ratings in 2007-08 on FSN Arizona enjoyed an increase of 196% over its average rating for the previous season. The 15 Sun Devil games on FSN AZ averaged a 1.5 rating/3 share in the Phoenix market. That figure means that an average of 27,039 households in the Valley were tuning into a game. In 2006-07, the Sun Devils averaged a 0.5 rating. A rating is the percentage of all television households in a market, while the share is the percentage of those television households that actually have their sets on during the particular time. One ratings point equal 18.026 households in the Phoenix market.

COACHING TREE: Herb Sendek now has eight former assistants who are D-I head coaches as 12-year sidekick Mark Phelps earned the Drake top spot last spring after serving for 10 years on Coach Sendek's staff at NC State and for two years at ASU and former NC State sidekick John Groce earned the Ohio University position. The others are Jim Christian, formerly at Kent State and now at TCU (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Charlie Coles at Miami of Ohio (Miami assistant from 1994-96), Larry Hunter at Western Carolina (NC State assistant from 2001-05), Ron Hunter of IUPUI (Miami assistant from 1993-94), Ohio State's Thad Matta (Miami assistant in 1994-95) and Xavier's Sean Miller (assistant at both Miami from 1994-96 and at NC State from 1996-2000). Coles, Miller and Matta all led their teams to the 2007 NCAA Tournament, then last year Christian led Kent State to the NCAAs, Miller led Xavier to the Elite Eight and Matta's Buckeye squad won the NIT a year after going to the Final Four.

STUFF TO KNOW: ASU was led in scoring by the most famous Sun Devil southpaw since Phil Mickelson, James Harden, who had an ASU freshman record 16 20-point games (seventh-best in school history and tied for third-best in the Pac-10). The 19-year old Harden (born August of 1989) was the youngest player in the Pac-10 in 2007-08 as his 17.8 points per game is second-best in ASU freshman history and he led the Pac-10 with 73 steals, fifth-best by a freshman in Pac-10 history...ASU was 5-4 at home in Pac-10 games after going 9-27 in Tempe the previous four seasons...ASU has gone 23-16 after starting Herb Sendek's first year 6-19...ASU won its share of close games (7-4 in games decided by 10 points or less) and made its free throws (.739 percentage was fifth-best in school history and second best in past 21 seasons) the second half of the Pac-10 season, four Sun Devil freshmen played 52 percent of the minutes and scored 54 percent of the points.

SLICK RICK (RIHARDS): Rihards Kuksiks averaged 26.6 minutes and 8.7 points in the final 12 games last year and made 25 three pointers. He had 15 points in the win over seventh-ranked Stanford on Feb. 14, 15 at Washington on Feb. 23 and 10 in March 1 win vs. USC. He had 104 points in the final 12 games after scoring 42 in the first 22 games.

AT HOME: ASU won 15 home games for first time in the 32-year history of Wells Fargo Arena last year, as it is was15-5 with wins over NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Xavier, Stanford, USC, Oregon and Coppin State. ASU previously won 14 home games in 1974-75 (14-0), 1979-80 (14-3), 1980-81 (14-1), 1990-91 (14-4), 1994-95 (14-3), 1997-98 (14-4), and 1999-2000 (14-3).

NO FRESHMAN STARTING: With ASU having some experience and returning starters this year, the opening game will probably be the first time that ASU won't have a freshman in the starting lineup since Dec. 10, 2005, a 75-71 loss to Utah Valley State, a span of the past 86 games. In the past three years nine freshman have earned 198 starts, 165 out of 320 starts in the Herb Sendek 64 game-era. In his two years, ASU has had freshmen make 51.6 percent of the starts. Sophomores have made 68 starts (.213), juniors 51 (.159) and seniors 36 (.113). In 2006-07 ASU's 69 freshmen starts set the school record by 24 starts that the Sun Devils easily surpassed last year with 96 total starts by freshman.

HITTING FREEBIES: ASU is shot .739 from the free throw line, the fifth-best mark in ASU history and second-best in past 21 seasons. In his 10 seasons at NC State, Coach Sendek's teams led the ACC four times in FT percentage (including three straight seasons, 2002-04). In 2004 NC State led the nation and set the ACC record by shooting .799 from the charity stripe. While at NC State, his squads shot 71.3 percent, as his worst team was his first year (1996-97/.649). One good note on his 2003-04 NC State team is in the past nine seasons, that squad's .799 FT percentage is tied for the best in the NCAA with St. Joseph in 2005-06.

1. 1977-78 (13-14/6-8 in WAC)--75.6
2. 1954-55 (10-14/8-4 in Border)--75.4
3. 1997-98 (18-14/8-10 in Pac-10)--74.6
3. 1986-87 (11-17/6-12 in Pac-10)--74.6
5. 2007-08 (21-14/9-9 in Pac-10)--73.9

THE HEAD COACH: Herb Sendek finished his 15th season as a head coach and has averaged 18.7 wins per season. He led the NC State Wolfpack to five straight NCAA appearances from 2002-06 and is now 283-193 (.595) in 15 seasons and was 191-132 (.591) at NC State. The 45-year-old (born Feb. 22, 1963) Pittsburgh, Pa., native is the third-youngest coach in the Pac-10. Only Duke posted more ACC wins (regular season and ACC Tournament) than NC State's 53 victories from 2002-2006. Another overlooked note is his 10-year stay at NC State. To compare it to the Pac-10, since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79, only five coaches have coached at their schools for at least 10 years: Lute Olson (24 at Arizona), Ralph Miller (19 at Oregon State), Mike Montgomery (18 at Stanford), Ben Braun (12 at California) and Ernie Kent (12 at Oregon).

ASU AGAIN TO HOST REGIONAL ACTION: Arizona State will again host NCAA West Regional action at the home of the Arizona Cardinals, University of Phoenix Stadium, on March 26-28. ASU hosted the 2008 West Regional at US Airways Arena in Phoenix. It marks the first time the same geographic area has hosted a regional in back-to-back years since St. Louis in 1998-99 and East Rutherford in 1986-91. First round sites for this year include Greensboro, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Portland, Boise, Dayton, Miami and Minneapolis, with other regionals taking place in Boston, Indianapolis and Memphis. The 2009 Final Four will be held April 4-6 at Ford Field in Detroit.

MOST POINTS IN ASU OPENER (1987-88 to Present)
Jeremy Veal, Sr., 32, ASU 97, Cal State Northridge 91 (Nov. 16, 1997)
Tarence Wheeler, So., 29, Alabama 84, ASU 83 (OT) @ Richmond (Nov. 25, 1988)
Isaac Burton, Jr., 28, ASU 106, BYU 95 (Nov. 27, 1993)
Mario Bennett, Jr., 27, ASU 103, Texas A&M 73 @Maui (Nov. 21, 1994)
Steve Moore, Jr., 26, ASU 80, Arkanas-Little Rock 72 (Nov. 22, 2003)
Jeremy Veal, Jr., 25, ASU 111, Jacksonville 69 (Nov. 22, 1996)
Ike Diogu, Jr., 24, ASU 79, Jackson State 48 (Nov. 21, 2004)
Ike Diogu, Jr., 24, ASU 80, Arkanas-Little Rock 72 (Nov. 22, 2003)
Jerren Shipp, Fr., 23, NAU 75, ASU 71 (Nov. 13, 2006)
Gee Gervin, Fr., 23, ASU 111, Jacksonville 69 (Nov. 22, 1996)

Nov. 10, 2000-Tulsa 69, ASU 67 @Raleigh
Nov. 13, 2006-Nothern Arizona 75, ASU 71
Nov. 13, 1998-ASU 68, San Jose State 49
Nov. 14, 2008-ASU vs. Mississippi Valley State
Nov. 16, 1997-ASU 97, Cal St. Northridge 91
Nov. 17, 2001-ASU 92, Stephen F. Austin 61
Nov. 17, 1999-ASU 79, Portland State 57
Nov. 21, 1994-ASU 103, Texas A & M 73 @Lahaina, Hawaii
Nov. 21, 2004-ASU 79, Jackson State 48

Nov. 11, 1997-NC State 47, #19 Georgia 45 @East Rutherford, N.J.
Nov. 13, 2006-Northern Arizona 75, ASU 71
Nov. 14, 2008-ASU vs. Mississippi Valley State
Nov. 14, 2001-NC State 95, Prairie View A&M 51
Nov. 14, 1998-NC State 81, MD-Eastern Shore 60
Nov. 17, 2004-NC State 92, New Orleans 58