The ASU Sun Devils play their first home game of the young Pac-12 season tonight in Tempe against the Oregon Ducks, a contest that will tell us a lot about what to expect for the rest of the season.
The beleaguered Devils, who are 5-10 overall and 1-2 in the re-formed conference (Utah and Colorado are the additional schools on board), are facing the well-coached and athletic Ducks, who are 11-4 (2-1 in conference play).
The game is set to start at 8:30 p.m., the late start time designed to accommodate Fox Sports, which airs it on Channel 34. Radio listeners should tune into 860 AM, a station that ASU often uses for its basketball games.
Tonight's game is the first since head coach Herb Sendek kicked leading scorer Keala King off the team, when the sophomore apparently didn't do what was expected of him last weekend after Sendek left him and two other starters back in Tempe before the Los Angeles road trip against UCLA and USC.
King was ASU's best player at times this season, though he remained problematic and inconsistent during his abbreviated tenure in Tempe. The other two suspended players, Chris Colvin and Kyle Cain, will be back in uniform tonight, which will give the Devils eight scholarship players instead of just six.
If ASU gets swept at home this weekend (the team plays Oregon State at 6 p.m. on Saturday night), this already-dismal season will lack just about any semblance of hope. If the Devils split--no small task against two decent teams--then the team fairly could be considered "spoilers" in a league that doesn't seem to have a truly dominant force at present.
If the locals somehow win both games, well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Oregon has a very nice new player this season, Devoe Joseph, who transferred from Minnesota and is leading the team with 15 points a game. He will difficult for the Devils to stop.
Saw a revealing interview with Coach Sendek on Channel 12 the other day, in which he discussed the several players who have prematurely departed the Sun Devils in recent seasons, including the recently deposed King.
"If you look at the guys who have left our program, almost to a man it's been about playing time," he said. "Yes, we've had some players leave. But I think it's an epidemic in college sports that really reflects what's happening in our society."
The coach is absolutely correct about that.
But that fact doesn't help matters at a program that always seems to be climbing uphill, with one step forward and at least one step back.