Tag Archives: Sacramento State Hornets

The Bobby Hurley Era Begins at Arizona State

The Bobby Hurley era at Arizona State has begun and it is apparent that there is plenty of work to be done before the program is challenging anybody for the conference title. The Sun Devils lost their home opener on Friday night to Sacramento State 66-63 at Wells Fargo Arena.

Whenever a new coach comes onto the scene for a school there is always a buzz with the program, but when the coach has some name recognition like Bobby Hurley there is something a little extra in the air with fans, players, and coaches.

When Hurley was hired in the off-season it was seen as a move to jump start a program that had been stuck in mediocrity and wasn’t making any inroads to challenge their rival to the south, the Arizona Wildcats, who is a national brand in terms of basketball. Those of us who follow college basketball know the past of Bobby Hurley. The competitive former Duke Blue Devil, who led them to a couple national championships, and basically was a thorn in the side of many teams and their fans.

Hurley not only comes with his Blue Devil pedigree, but he had some good success at the University of Buffalo. Buffalo? Yeah, Buffalo. He was named the head coach at Buffalo in 2013 and immediately made an impact on the program. He guided them to a MAC East Division crown and let people know he could coach. In 2014 he built upon that by guiding Buffalo to their first MAC Championship and their first trip to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With that success he became a hot commodity in college basketball and Arizona State was looking for a new coach, after firing long time coach Herb Sendak. Coach Hurley took the challenge of leading and resurrecting the men’s basketball program at ASU.

What kind of team does Hurley have at Arizona State? Well, he has a bunch a guys that are slender, long, and fairly young. Most of the players range from 6’4”-6’7”, with the only player bigger than that being Eric Jacobsen at 6’10”. The experience factor is really there for his players and that is going to create some issues for Hurley to keep the excitement around the program and to get the players he is going to want to have at Arizona State.

The issues at Arizona State that Bobby Hurley faces are big. A program that hasn’t done anything for years, facilities that are not the greatest, and when you put those two things together, you get a fan base that is luke warm at best. The Sun Devils play in front of a half empty arena every game and that has not gone unnoticed by recruits who want to come to ASU, but want to feel like they are supported by the community. It’s a challenge for the Sun Devils that the only remedy is going to be winning and with the current assembled team that is going to be a tough thing to accomplish.

After his first game on Friday night in which his new Sun Devil team lost 66-63 to an upstart Sacramento State team, it is obvious that there is much work to be done before the Sun Devils will be challenging for anything in the Pac-12.

Even though this is a Power 5 program for Hurley, he has the incredible task of molding the young players that he has and somehow getting them to play bigger than they are. As I stated earlier, they are not incredibly big with only one player over 6’7”, so they are going to have to play some very fundamentally sound basketball. That means, blocking out, using some of their athleticism to get to rim and not letting bigger teams set their defense. If defenses are set when Sun Devils go on offense, I’m not so sure they will be able to win with their outside shooting. Their shooting looked sketchy at best against Sacramento State and with a full tilt of Pac-12 competition coming that does not bode well for them.

For the 2015 season Hurley is going to have to get a couple of good wins to keep the excitement level with the fans going and to keep them coming to Wells Fargo Arena. I see a bottom half of the Pac-12 finish, no NCAA appearance, and major reconstruction of a program happening. It just may be a few years until Hurley gets things turned around. He doesn’t have “that guy” that he can go to in a crunch time situation yet. Can he get those guys to come to Tempe? We just have to wait to find out.

Hot Out the Gate

For my birthday this past weekend, my lovely wife gifted me tickets to the Cal-Sacramento State football game. Because this was the home opener and my very first time going to a Cal game, it will forever have a special place in my heart.
To top things off, Cal (2-0) certainly didn’t disappoint, drubbing Sacramento State 55-14. Honestly, the game was over before the first quarter even ended, leading 28-0. I remember hearing the roar of the crowd mere minutes into the contest as Jared Goff hit Kenny Lawler for a 4 yard touchdown, making it 7-0. Now, I say hearing the crowd, because I was stuck in a bottleneck line (along with 400 other folks) trying to get into the stadium. Not to be deterred by that minor annoyance, I was please Cal struck first.
Once inside and settled in, it was clear that Sacramento State was in for a long afternoon. Cal’s offense functioned like a well-oiled machine. Jared Goff was exceptionally accurate, finishing off the day 17-22, for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns. He sat out the second half with a commanding 45-7 advantage.
Although this was Sacramento State, I was pleased to see the commitment to the run game. Cal amassed a surprising 255 yards on 48 carries; 94 yards coming from junior running back Daniel Lasco. Although Cal benefited from the long runs against a subpar opponent, they still struggled to gain yards between the tackles. As Cal gets into conference play, this weakness will be exploited immediately. My concern is Cal will revert back to leaning too heavily on Goff if they don’t find a way to keep defenses honest.
Going into an early bye week, Coach Dykes and staff have to address this issue. They have been able to side step this deficiency with a strong pass game against suspect secondaries.Cal’s September 20th match up against the Arizona Wildcats definitely put the 2014 season in proper perspective-given that 5 of their remaining 10 opponents are currently ranked in the top 25 of college football polls.
Hypothetically speaking, if Cal were to split the final ten games of the season, this, in my mind would be a huge success. A 7-5 record is a monumental improvement over last year’s 1-11 record. Historically speaking Sonny Dykes has experienced dramatic improvements in his program’s records the following year. So in theory, there is likelihood of that occurring, right?
Something not mentioned as much as it should, is Cal’s defense. They are a pretty solid unit out there. Both games played, their defense has shown up. Aside from the uncommon 60 yard quarterback scramble that lead to a touchdown for Sacramento state, Cal hasn’t given up too many big plays. They’ve been able to keep offenses in front of them. Granted, Cal’s defense has yet to face a top flight offense. But, these past two games serve as great confidence boosters.
Based on what I’ve seen thus far, I am impressed with the 2014 California Golden Bears. They’ve shown resolve in the face of adversity against Northwestern; and, they have exercised their will on Sacramento State-dictating the outcome long before the final whistle sounded. This season is only two weeks young. I don’t want to build a castle on shaky ground. But, given Cal’s recent track record of performance, one has to be pleasantly surprised with this group. When it’s all said and done, Cal is a better team this year than last. Forgive me for being an uber-optimist with this, but, Cal has already doubled last year’s win total. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?
Although we won’t see the Golden Bears for a couple of weeks, Cal fans can rejoice in that their Bears are undefeated; a feat that hasn’t been done since the 2011 season. Once the bye week passes, Cal has to gear up for one hell of a ride through what is arguably, the 2nd, if not the toughest conference in college football. If the Bears can continue to play with intensity on defense and efficiency on offense, I have no doubt that the nation will have to take notice and give a little love to the Cal Bears. I’m not talking shaking up the world, but a subtle poke will suffice…for now.