Maui Invitational preview package, with several boxes:
- Preview capsule
- Tournament schedule and bracket
- The rest of the field
In his second season as Arizona State basketball coach, Herb Sendek gets his first chance to do it his way with the Sun Devils.
Unable to implement his version of the Princeton offense last season because of personnel concerns, Sendek will combine an infusion of talent with the system in his second season in the desert southwest. Picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10 Conference, the Sun Devils open the season against Illinois in the first round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational tonight in Lahaina, Hawaii.
"We found ourselves in unqiue situations last season,'' said Sendek, who was 191-132 in 10 seasons at North Carolina State before jumping to Arizona State. "We had to tailor everything we did especially to the group we had last season. In many regards, this will be our first opportunity to expand and maybe return to things we're accustomed to doing.''
Tonight's winner faces the Duke-Princeton winner in Tuesday's semifinal round. The final round is Wednesday. The loser falls into the consolation bracket against the Duke-Princeton loser.
"We have a young team that needs the immediate feedback that this tournament offers,'' Sendek said.
Like Arizona State, this is where Illinois begins to learn the season's true outlook. The tournament field includes No. 10 Marquette and No. 13 Duke, the champion in its first three tournament appearances.
Arizona State finished 8-22 overall last season and 2-16 in the Pac-10, but the Sun Devils lost eight conference games by six points or less. The Sun Devils started three freshmen in exhibition play before opening the season against the Illini.
"(Sendek) runs the Princeton system,'' Illinois coach Bruce Weber said. "He brought a little bit of that to Arizona State. He's getting a little better athlete in a different league and trying to let them go a little more. He has some good young players, a transfer from Duke, a couple young freshmen who started in exhibition games.
"A lot of it is new for those guys. He's kind of like us with so many new people. It won't be an easy game. People on the West Coast, some of them think Arizona State can be a sleeper team, a surprise team because he's such a good coach with a talented team.''
The Sun Devils will build around junior Jeff Pendergraph, a 6-foot-9 forward who was honorable mention all-Pac-10 last season after leading Arizona State with 12.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Freshman guard James Harden is the first McDonald's All-American to sign as a freshman with Arizona State since 1984. Harden was ranked the nation's No. 11 recruit by Rivals.com and considered the top recruit in California last season.
Guard Ty Abbott originally signed with New Mexico, but a coaching change there had him looking elsewhere. He considered Illinois. Arizona State freshman point guard Jamelle McMillan was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington after leading Seattle O'Dea to three state championships. He also showed interest in Illinois. Sophmore center Eric Boateng is eligible after transfering from Duke.
Arizona State's recruiting class was ranked No. 19 nationally.
Sendek is a former assistant at Kentucky under Rick Pitino. In 13 seasons as a head coach at Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina State, he is 254-158. He guided the Wolfpack NCAA tournament bids in each of his last five seasons there.
"I thought he did a great job at North Carolina State,'' Weber said. "You're stuck there in the middle of Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest. I'm not sure the people liked or related to his system.''
At Arizona State, they really get the first look at Sendek's plan beginning tonight.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. For more Illini coverage, read Illini Talk blog at www.sj-r.com and www.pjstar.com.
Illinois (2-0) vs. Arizona State (0-0)
10:30 p.m., Lahaina Civic Center (2.400), Lahaina, Hawaii (ESPN2, Illini Sports Network)
ILLINOIS (2-0) ppg rpg
F Brian Randle Sr. 6-8 13.0 5.0
F Rodney Alexander Jr. 6-7 6.0 3.5
C Shaun Pruitt Sr. 6-10 13.5 12.0
G Trent Meacham Jr. 6-2 7.0 2.5
G Chester Frazier Jr. 6-2 6.0 3.0
ARIZONA STATE (0-0) ppg rpg
F Jeff Pendergraph Jr. 6-9 12.1 9.1
C Eric Boateng So. 6-10 7.0 4.0
G Ty Abbott Fr. 6-3 8.5 1.0
G Jamelle McMillan Fr. 6-1 6.5 3.0
G James Harden Fr. 6-4 20.0 8.5
(Note: Stats for Boateng, Abbott, McMillan and Harden are from two exhibition games.)
Noteworthy: Illinois holds a 2-1 edge in the series with Arizona State. The Illini won 80-74 in 1976 in the last meeting between the two teams. ... Illinois makes its third Maui Invitational appearance. The Illini finished as the runner-up in 2000, losing to top-ranked Arizona 79-76 in the title game. The Illini finished third in 1987. ... Illinois won its last four appearances in in-season tournaments (Las Vegas Invitational in 2001, Las Vegas Holiday Classic in 2004, South Padre Invitational in 2005 and Chicago Invitational in 2006). ... Frazier had 19 points and nine assists in the 79-77 win against Hawaii early Saturday morning. Freshman guard Demetri McCamey came off the bench to finish with 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
Key for Illini: Take advantage of mistakes made by Arizona State's young lineup.
Key for Sun Devils: With a set of young guards, win the battle in the backcourt and provide help for Pendergraph.
Key quote: "The first thing James (Harden) is focusing on is changing his body, turning some of the baby fat into muscle mass. You can already see the difference. He's working to get in the best shape of his life.'' -- Arizona State coach Herb Sendek.
Prediction: Illinois 73, Arizona State 69
SCHEDULE A GLANCE: EA Sports Maui Invitational, Lahaina, Hawaii
- Game 1 -- Marquette vs. Chaminade, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
- Game 2 -- LSU vs. Oklahoma State, 4 p.m., ESPN2
- Game 3 -- Princeton vs. Duke, 8 p.m., ESPN2
- Game 4 -- Illinois vs. Arizona State, ESPN2
- Game 5 -- Losers games 1-2, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
- Game 6 -- Losers games 3-4, 3 p.m., ESPNU
- Game 7 -- Winners games 1-2, 6 p.m., ESPN
- Game 8 -- Winners games 3-4, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
- Game 9 -- Winners games 5-6, 1 p.m., ESPN2
- Game 11 -- Losers games 5-6, 6 p.m., ESPNU
- Game 10 -- Losers games 7-8, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
- Game 11 -- Winners games 7-8, 9 p.m., ESPN
THE LINEUP: The rest of the field
Outlook: Guards Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wes Matthews make Marquette,
ranked No. 10, the favorite in the field.
Outlook: The Division II program, the tournament's host, defeated No. 1-ranked Virginia in 1982 in the biggest upset in college history.
Outlook: Without guard Dameon Mason (viral infection) and forward Quintin Thornton (torn pectoral muscle), the Tigers are short-handed.
Outlook: Loss last week to North Texas puts an early-season question mark on Cowboys.
Outlook: Princeton makes Ivy League's first appearance in the field, but not much expected in first season under coach Sydney Johnson.
Outlook: The Blue Devils feature sophomore guard Jon Scheyer, who played for Illini coach Bruce Weber's brother, David, at Glenbrook North.