One of the trademarks of Herb Sendeks recent teams was the inexplicably ugly performances. Even his best teams had nights when they just didnt show up, or went through long scoring droughts, or cracked at the wrong time. That generally hasnt been the case this year under Sidney Lowe. States losses have come against teams that were simply better, or at least favored. There have been some opportunities to win that State let slip away. It had a chance to upset Virginia on the road and led at halftime at Cincinnati until the turnovers mounted. But for the most part, it has won the games it should have won. That cant be said about Sendeks State teams, and had this team lost to a Wofford or UNC Greensboro under Sendek, the wolves in the stands would really be howling by now. Sendek, by the way, doesnt seem to be squeezing every ounce out of an outmatched team at Arizona State so far. He was 6-13 overall and 0-8 in the Pac-10 through mid-January, riding a nine-game losing streak. He lost early to the likes of Northern Arizona and Portland State. And who knows what the morale would have been like had this group struggled under Sendek. The veterans talk openly about how much more fun it is to play for Lowe, and how they dont feel like "robots" as sophomore forward Ben McCauley put it playing in Lowes system. As frustrated as Grant is at times, having to fill in for Atsur at point guard, hes still under less stress and enjoying the game more playing for Lowe. Its true that Lowe is enjoying the benefits of being a first-year coach in terms of keeping the fans support and building hope for the future. Fans were going to cut Lowe some slack no matter what, in his first year making the transition from the NBA to the college game. They have been even more understanding because of the circumstances that Lowe has had to deal with defections that left him with little depth, and the injury to Atsur, his senior leader. But beyond that, this really does appear to be far better for all involved than had Sendek stayed. Once it was determined that Cedric Simmons would go to the NBA and Brackman would concentrate on baseball, the program was destined to take a step backward this year, with or without all of Sendeks recruits. Once Atsur got hurt, this teams shortcomings were magnified. Put that all together and imagine Sendek still in Raleigh, and things could have gotten really, really ugly, on the court and off.
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