Pac-12 Team Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on October 29th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Strengths. The combination of the lightning-quick Jahii Carson and sharpshooter Jermaine Marshall gives head coach Herb Sendek one of the top one-two punches in the conference. Carson, arguably one of the top 10 point guards in the nation, will run the offense and is as dangerous as anyone in the Pac-12 in crunch time. Complementing the sophomore in the backcourt will be the Penn State transfer Marshall, whose ability to score from the perimeter and by driving to the basket will take some of the load off Carson. Sendek will employ a faster offense this season looking to maximize the speed and talent the pair provides. If Carson develops a strong left hand and even just on occasion forces defenses to play him more honestly, Arizona State can score enough points to compete with anyone in the Pac-12. All of this should result in its first NCAA Tournament trip since the 2008-09 campaign.

Everything Will Go Through Carson For Arizona State This Season (credit: Zach Long)

Everything Will Go Through Carson For Arizona State This Season (credit: Zach Long)

Weaknesses. As good as Carson and Marshall are, there will be nights when a little depth is required. And that’s where ASU could get into trouble. The next best guard is cornerman Shaquielle McKissic, who is in from Edmonds Community College. McKissic has some raw talent and athleticism, but he will be called upon often and doesn’t appear to be Pac-12 ready.

Non-Conference Tests. Arizona State starts the year with a trio of cupcakes before playing seven consecutive solid opponents. That’s almost unheard of in power conference basketball, so it will be interesting to see how the Sun Devils fare during the brutal two-and-a-half week stretch. Known games with UNLV (in Las Vegas), Marquette (in Tempe), and Creighton (in Fullerton) highlight the slate, while possible match-ups with San Diego State and Miami (FL) are also possible. They’ll remain on the road following the Wooden Legacy for a game at DePaul, which is still a Big East road game no matter how bad the Blue Demons might be.

Toughest Conference Stretch. Sendek’s team will get to face the two toughest teams in the Pac-12 back-to-back on the road near the front end of the league schedule. They’ll get a brief reprieve when hosting Utah following the Arizona game, but a visit from dangerous Colorado two days later accelerates things once more.

If Everything Goes Right… UNLV overlooked a dangerous Pac-12 underdog at home last November, so the Rebels are primed and ready to go when Arizona State comes calling for a late-night showdown in Vegas. Carson and Marshall turn in great performances, but UNLV dominates in the post and escapes with a five-point win. The Sun Devils bounce back and win 11 of their next 12 games and crack the Top 25 at 14-2. Things cool down after that, and NCAA hopes begin to fade after a home loss to Stanford with just a week-plus remaining in the regular season. However, things turn up Sunny throughout championship week, and with everything breaking their way, the Devils find themselves with a #11 seed in the Big Dance.

If Nothing Goes Right… The tough non-conference schedule proves to be too much and Arizona State enters league play at 8-5. A lack of a post presence and solid bench hurts the Devils, and a .500 Pac-12 season results in another NIT berth.

Projected Starting Line-up

  • PG Jahii Carson (So, 5’10″ 180 lbs, 18.5 PPG, 5.1 APG, 106.3 ORtg)
  • SG Jermaine Marshall (Sr, 6’4″ 205 lbs, 15.3 PPG, 2.6 APG, 100.5 ORtg in 20123-13 at Penn State)
  • SF Jonathan Gilling (Jr, 6’7” 219 lbs, 9.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG)
  • Brandan Kearney (Jr, 6’5″ 190 lbs, 2.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG in 2012-13 at Michigan State)
  • Jordan Bachynski (Sr, 7’2″ 248, 9.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG)

I love this starting five. Carson and Marshall have the electricity and scoring ability needed to compete with anyone in the conference, and Bachynski provides a solid post presence on both ends of the floor. Gilling will have the opportunity to match last year’s production from three-point land with the attention that Carson and Marshall draw, but his consistency has to improve. Where he helps immensely is on the boards, and he could very well lead the team on the glass in 2013-14. The unknown is Michigan State transfer Brandan Kearney. Lacking size, he’ll play a bit of a stretch four role for Sendek.

Marshall Provides Balance To The ASU Backcourt Attack (credit: Getty Images)

Marshall Provides Balance To The ASU Backcourt Attack (credit: Getty Images)

Key Reserves

  • CG Calaen Robinson (So, 6’2” 190 lbs, Redshirted in 2011-12, DNP 2012-13 With Off-Court Matter)
  • SG Bo Barnes (Jr, 6’4” 190 lbs, 0.5 PPG, 0.1 APG)
  • SF Richie Edwards (Sr, 6’7” 220 lbs, 9.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG in 2011-12 at Valparaiso)
  • PF Sai Tummala (So, 6’7” 215 lbs, 14.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG in 2012-13 at Salt Lake CC)
  • Eric Jacobsen (So, 6’10” 235 lbs, 1.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.1 BPG)

The highly-touted Robinson finally gets a chance to play for the Sun Devils, but with Carson likely to play 35 minutes a night, he won’t get much of a chance to show off. Barnes is a straight three-point shooter who only played 4.1 MPG in his first year back on the court since transferring from Hawaii. Edwards is the strongest player of this group. He had a year to learn the position after transferring from Valparaiso and is big enough to play either the three or four. Tummala is in from Salt Lake Community College and is the team’s third best rebounder. Jacobsen will be waiting in the wings behind Bachynski. Let’s just say Jordan will be playing the majority of the minutes at the five.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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