Arizona State: 2011-12 Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 6th, 2012
Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Arizona State.
What Went Wrong
Herb Sendek had a ton of bad luck this season. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson fought with the NCAA over eligibility issues well into December before finally being declared ineligible (he came up either one letter grade in a high school class or one ACT point away from eligibility) for the year. And transfer Chris Colvin struggled mightily early in the season (35.3 eFG% and 0.92-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the nine games prior to the Carson ruling), forcing Sendek to turn to wing Keala King at the point. He actually did as good a job as could be expected for a player without any experience there (although he too struggled with turnovers), but bristled under Sendek’s constraints and transferred out of the program after being abruptly suspended (with two other teammates) prior to a January road trip. That left leading scorer Trent Lockett, another wing, as option #4 at the point, and when he went down in late January for six games with an ankle injury it was back to Colvin. All of the uncertainty at the lead guard spot did nothing to make anything easier for the rest of the team. Sophomore Kyle Cain took a step back after a promising rookie campaign (and announced his own transfer out of the program after the season ended), centers Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev were up and down (at best), and the program is now 22-40 in the past two seasons combined. While it seemed like Sendek’s crew was a walking proof of Murphy’s Law, the time is past for excuses; this program is in bad, bad shape.
What Went Right
Really, you’ve got to stretch in order to find positives in this year’s team, but Jonathan Gilling, a freshman forward from Denmark, looked pretty good in his first year on campus as maybe a second-coming of Rihards Kuksiks. Gilling knocked down 53 threes at a 41% clip while playing a shade over 50% of the available minutes, but he’s got work to do not only on the defensive end as well as helping out on the glass. Sophomore center Jordan Bachynski showed some flashes of serious potential, scoring in double figures in eight of his final 13 games and showing a penchant for being able to get to the line, although he needs to add consistency. And, more than anything else, when ASU fans look back on the good parts of the 2011-12 season, they can always point to the regular season finale, when they knocked off Arizona behind solid play from Gilling, Bachynski, Colvin, Lockett and even junior Carrick Felix, effectively eliminating the Wildcats from at-large NCAA consideration. That was sweet for Sun Devil fans.
He may have missed six games and struggled for a while to get back into shape afterward, but junior Trent Lockett was the best player on the team. His offensive efficiency numbers took a hit in part due to his playing out of position at the point, but Lockett shot the ball well from the field, got to the line exceedingly well, chipped in big time on the glass and was the team’s best defensive player.
Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, Lockett will be playing basketball somewhere other than Tempe next season, as he will take advantage of the rule that allows graduate students to transfer to a different institution with a graduate program that their college does not offer without having to sit out a year. He is expected to transfer to a school nearer his Minnesota home, so he can be close to his mother who is fighting cancer. But Lockett is just one of several ASU players who will be moving on from the school prior to their eligibility expiring, as Cain and sharpshooter Chanse Creekmur will also look to ply their trade elsewhere.
Players Coming In
Jahii Carson, Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon have all been in the program for a year now, but they’ll all be newly eligible next season. Carson did his scholastic penance this year, while Barnes and Gordon are incoming transfers – from Hawaii and Liberty, respectively – who will help out in the backcourt. Sendek also has three incoming freshman who should compete for playing time immediately on a relatively thin squad. Kenny Martin and Eric Jacobsen are two 6’10” frontcourt players who will add some much-needed size, and Martin in particular, though thin, will add a capable outside shot. Calaen Robinson is the third freshman recruit, and he’ll compete for minutes in the backcourt immediately as a combo-guard who can score.
Reason for Hope
Carson was expected to be an impact guard last season with his ability to get in the lane and create shots for himself and for teammates. Things could be much easier on the offensive end next year than they have been in the past couple years, and with shooters like Barnes, Gordon and Gilling, ASU could space the floor and make defenses respect their three-point ability. With Bachynski anchoring the middle of the defense, and athletes the caliber of Felix and Carson on the perimeter, the Sun Devils should be much improved at stopping people as well. While the loss of Lockett prevents them from being considered a sleeper to sneak into NCAA Tournament discussions, ASU should begin to turn things around next year.
Reason For Concern
The fact is, there is nobody on this team that has proven his ability to compete at a high level in a major conference yet in their careers. We suspect Carson, Barnes and Gordon are capable of doing that, and certainly there is hope that Bachynski and Gilling will continue to grow as players, but none of these guys have proven it before. Throw in the overall concerns about the direction of Sendek’s program, especially the fact that 12 players have left early in the last four years, and the head coach’s seat will begin to get very warm if his charges don’t show reason for optimism early next year.
D. There’s no way around it; 22 wins over the course of two seasons is unacceptable. That number of wins in two seasons while players are transferring out of the program left and right and there is little reason for hope in the immediate future — that’s depressing.