Heading into this Saturday’s Territorial Cup showdown against UA, the ASU men’s basketball team has a comfortable familiarity with the Wildcat players.
Senior guard Derek Glasser will be matched up against UA senior guard Nic Wise for the eighth time in their college careers, and junior guard Ty Abbott will try to drive into the lane against UA junior forward Jamelle Horne for the sixth time.
But it is not the players’ familiarities with each other that present the most intriguing matchup for the Sun Devils (14-5, 4-2) and Wildcats.
Rather, it’s the matchup of ASU coach Herb Sendek against his former assistant coach and protégé in UA head coach Sean Miller.
In 1993, Sendek was hired as the head coach of the Miami (OH) Redhawks, and upon arrival he hired a former University of Pittsburgh point guard named Sean Miller. Miller served as an assistant under Sendek for seven of the next eight seasons at Miami and North Carolina State.
Miller eventually moved on to Xavier, where he became the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 2008 and led Xavier to three straight A-10 regular season titles.
Though the two coaches have a seven-year history together, Sendek says it won’t matter on Saturday.
“Both of us will be focused like any other game on preparing our team,” Sendek said. “I mean, what else are you going to do? Its not like you’re going to have the luxury to be taking strolls down memory lane.”
Sendek is 3-1 against former assistants, including 1-1 against Miller. ASU lost to Miller’s Xavier squad 76-58 in 2006 in Cincinnati before getting revenge with a 77-55 win over Xavier in 2007 in Tempe.
McMillan’s status uncertain
Junior guard Jamelle McMillan did not practice on Tuesday because of plantar fasciitis in his foot, and it is unknown whether he will play against UA.
“He continues to receive as much treatment as possible, but there really hasn’t been a lot of shift yet, so hopefully he’ll turn the corner here soon,” Sendek said.
McMillan is averaging 7.9 points per game and is second on the team with 3.3 assists per game.
A close race
Though the Sun Devils are in first place in the Pac-10, only one game separates them from sixth place and only a game and a half separates them from last.
The closeness of the conference has Sendek’s attention.
“There’s a lot of balance,” Sendek said. “I mean, literally, there’s one game between first and last place — that’s incredible, mathematically. Everybody is very capable — there’s no easy games in our conference right now.”
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