ASU men's basketball tips off regular season

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TEMPE --The 15th-ranked Arizona State men's basketball team opens its regular-season schedule tonight against Mississippi Valley State.

The ranking is the Sun Devils' second-highest preseason ranking in school history.

The Pac-10 media has predicted ASU will finish second behind UCLA.

That's high expectations for a program that hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament in six years.

ASU hasn't finished better than third in the Pac-10 in 13 seasons.

Is the breakout season finally here?

The Sun Devils won 21 games last year, including two in the postseason National Invitation Tournament.

They return nearly 95 percent of their scoring and all five starters including sophomore guard James Harden and senior forward Jeff Pendergraph.

Harden averaged 18 points and led the Pac-10 in steals as a freshman while Pendergraph averaged 12 points and 6 rebounds.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)