Arizona State Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2013
Now that all 12 conference teams are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Today we start with Arizona State.
What Went Right
A lot of things went right for the Sun Devils this year, as they won 12 more games this season, but a lot of those things stemmed from the eligibility and success of freshman point guard Jahii Carson. He was this team’s catalyst from start to finish and many of the areas in which ASU improved can be directly traced back to him. Carrick Felix’s offensive explosion? It certainly wouldn’t have happened without Carson’s play-making ability and the attention he drew from defenses. Herb Sendek’s new slightly-more-uptempo approach? It was almost entirely tied to Carson’s strengths. And best of all, for the first time since James Harden left Tempe, Sun Devils basketball is unabashedly cool again.
What Went Wrong
Any time you’re ranked below 300th in the nation in free throw percentage (64.9% as a team), you know you’re going to frustrate your coaching staff. The Sun Devils lost seven games this season by five points or less, and their combined free throw percentage in those games was even worse than the season average at 59.6%. Games like their home game against Stanford where they just 8-of-16 from the stripe in a three-point loss have to stick in the craw, even months later.
While you’ve got to recognize the great impact that Felix had on both ends of the court for the Sun Devils, there is little question that Jahii Carson was the team’s best player and it’s most valuable. He was the only major addition to a team that had won just 10 games in 2011-12 and he was not only the focal point offensively, he also injected the team with confidence and excitement.
Sendek graduates three seniors in Felix, Chris Colvin and Ruslan Pateev. Felix is obviously the big loss, as he played nearly all of the available minutes and was great filling a lane on the fast break, spotting up for the three in the halfcourt or playing lock-down defense. Pateev came on strong at the end of the season and played some of the best ball of his career, but aside from his seven-foot frame, he is replaceable. Likewise, while Colvin was a good athlete and a good defender, he was also a bit of a headache off the court and a liability shooting the ball. Associate head coach Dedrique Taylor will also be moving along, heading to Cal State Fullerton to take over the head coaching spot there.
Players Coming In
Sendek has a variety of pieces ready to step into the rotation next season. Guard Calaen Robinson was to be a member of last year’s freshman class, but he sat out the season while dealing with an “off-the-court matter.” He’s a combo guard with a sweet stroke who should inject some instant offense next season alongside Carson. Senior forward Richie Edwards is another guy who is already associated with the team that Sendek will have at his disposal next year; he’s a transfer from Valparaiso who was last seen averaging better than nine points per game in just 18 minutes a night. Then there are a pair of 2013 freshmen wings as well in Chance Murray, out of Los Angeles, and Egor Koulechov, a European player who has been playing at a Florida prep school.
Reason for Hope
The expectation is that Carson will return to school for another season to work on his jumper, among other things. Given that the guy was already in the conversation for Pac-12 Player of the Year, with another year of improvement, not to mention the experienced gained in his first year in Tempe, he’ll be among the early favorites for that honor next year. But he’ll need somebody to step up alongside him to fill the role of second scorer. The good news is that there are good candidates, including wing Evan Gordon, who hopes to eliminate the shooting slumps that he struggled with this season, and Jordan Bachynski, who took another step forward in his progress but needs to improve his offensive post play.
Reason For Concern
A year that saw the supposed rebirth of Sun Devils basketball ended in an NIT berth and the improvement in the program seems like more a matter of Carson’s cult of personality rather than grassroots positive changes. What happens to this program when Carson leaves? And what if that when is this offseason? He’s already checking with the NBA to see what scouts’ take on him is and all it would really take to see him earning a paycheck next season is one general manager offering up a first-round promise to him. If that happens, the remaining roster looks an awful lot like 10-win talent all over again.
B+. Twenty-two wins. Exciting basketball. Improvement. And a postseason tournament, even if it wasn’t exactly the tournament the school hoped to wind up in. Sure, if you’re a Sun Devils fan, you would have loved to have seen an NCAA Tournament bid, but considering where this program had been the last two seasons, this was undoubtedly a successful year in Tempe.