November 15, 2017 / 4:39 AM / 9 days ago

Preview: San Diego State at Arizona State

Despite missing three key players, Arizona State opened its season with a comfortable 94-74 win over Idaho State. The Sun Devils, expected to make a run for an NCAA Tournament berth this year after back-to-back losing seasons to start the Bobby Hurley era, will get a much better gauge of where they stand when they host perennial Mountain West heavyweight San Diego State on Tuesday night.

The Aztecs, picked to finish second in the Mountain West preseason poll, opened their season by crushing NAIA San Diego Christian as expected, 91-52. But the team recently raised a lot of eyebrows with a 98-76 closed-door scrimmage victory over a veteran USC squad that has Final Four aspirations. Longtime assistant Brian Dutcher replaces Steve Fisher as head coach for San Diego State, which lost to the Sun Devils, 74-63, last year at Viejas Arena in the first game of the home-and-home series. “You could see the talent on their roster last year,” Hurley told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I love their guards. They’ve added a couple of high school players that I remember watching on the high school circuit. They’ve added some good pieces, guys sitting out. And certainly that score against USC grabs your attention.”

TV: 9 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network

ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (1-0): Senior guard Trey Kell was a preseason All-Mountain West pick after averaging 13.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game but he may be just the second best guard on the Aztecs this year. Devin Watson, a transfer from San Francisco, averaged 20.3 points and 4.9 assists as a sophomore in 2015-16 when he was a first team all-West Coast Conference selection, and he had eight points and three steals in the opener. Jeremy Hemsley, a returning starter who was second on the team in scoring (12.9) last season, came off the bench to score 10 points and dish off six assists in the opener while 6-foot-10 senior forward Malik Pope, an NBA prospect who averaged 11 points and 6.1 rebounds, led the Aztecs with 20 points and six rebounds.

ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (1-0): De‘Quon Lake, a 6-foot-10 transfer with a 36-inch vertical leap from Iowa Western Community College, stole the show in the opener for the Sun Devils, scoring 24 points, including four dunks, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots. Lake should have more help on the frontline against the Aztecs with 6-8 redshirt freshman Romello White (team rules violation) and 6-7 freshman Kimani Lawrence (sprained ankle), a top-100 recruit, expected back after missing the opener but highly touted 6-7 Ohio State transfer Mickey Mitchell isn’t eligible until Dec. 10 . The Sun Devils have one of the top returning backcourts in the Pac-12 thanks to Tra Holder (16.2 points, 3.2 assists), Shannon Evans II (15 points, 4.4 assists) and 3-point specialist Kodi Justice (9.2 points, 41.7 3-point percentage).

TIP-INS

1. Lake’s 24 points, which came on 8-of-10 shooting, were the most for a player in a Sun Devil debut in 14 seasons.

2. Evans, who scored 50 points and connected on 11-of-18 3-pointers in a 115-69 exhibition win over Arizona Christian, scored a team-high 25 points and sank five 3-pointers against Idaho State.

3. Holder nearly had a triple-double in the opener, finishing with 18 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

PREDICTION: Arizona State 77, San Diego State 68

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