January 15, 2008
Sun Devils earn Top-25 ranking in both polls
After beating Arizona last Wednesday to improve to 3-0 in the Pac-10 and 13-2 overall, Arizona State moved into this week's Top-25 rankings for the first time since March of 1995, coming in at No. 22 in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the USA TodayESPN poll.
The Sun Devils were picked to finish 9th in the Pac-10 Media Poll, but currently sit in second place through two weeks of conference play, behind only UCLA (15-1; 4-0 Pac-10).
Still, the team is cognizant that all three Pac-10 games played thus far were at home, and key players were injured and out of action in games against Oregon and Arizona.
"It most certainly is an indication that we're making progress," Sun Devil coach Herb Sendek said on Monday of the rankings. "At the same time I think we all recognize that it's a real-time snapshot.
"This early in the season, especially this early in conference play, those rankings tend to be very volatile. We'll put it in its proper place. It's a recognition in some form that we're making progress but at the same time it really is a snapshot for this moment in time."
"Even though we're ranked, we're not really satisfied with it," Jeff Pendergraph said. "We still want to get better and we have a lot of work to do before we get to where we want to be."
While the Sun Devils are third among Pac-10 teams in the polls, behind Top-10 teams UCLA and Washington State, they are seventh in the RPI ratings, at 68, behind UCLA (6), Arizona (9), Oregon, (21) Washington State (25), Stanford (39) and Cal (53).
Even though ASU is 2-0 against Sagarin Top-25 opponents and 3-0 against Top-25 opponents, it only ranks sixth in that rankings, at 40th, behind UCLA (5), Washington State (7), Oregon (25), Arizona (27), and Stanford (31.).
Up next for the Sun Devils is a trip to the Bay Area to play Stanford and Cal. The games should provide Sendek with a better idea of where his team is at relative to others in the nation's No. 1 ranked league. ASU played poorly in its only true road game of the season, at Nebraska.
"I don't know that you can play differently (on the road)," Sendek said. "You basically are who you are. Despite your best intent you usually become the product of your habits. When you play against top competition like Cal on the road, you're going to have to be extremely good. In fact you may play really well and not win because they have something to say about it as well."
Both of this week's opponents present possible problems due to their size in the front court. Cal features 6-foot-11 DeVon Hardin (9.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game) and 6-foot-10 Ryan Anderson (20.7 points, 9.6 rebounds). Stanford features 7-foot twins Brook Lopez (16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Robin Lopez (9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds.).
"They're really enormous," Sendek said. "Not just the frontcourt but in Cal's case, not only do they have an ominous front line size-wise, they also have big, strong perimeter players. They're big across the board."
"They're not just big guys who take up space," Pendergraph said. "They're skilled guys who do a lot of big things for their team. You're going to walk into a guy who is going to make you work on offense and on defense.
"Going on the road, there especially is going to be really difficult, with our young guys and everything," Pendergraph said. "The maturation thing, we're not going to know until game-time comes. I have confidence in them that they're going to know what's going on."
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