Arizona State’s Future is Bright

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 4th, 2016

Connor Pelton covers Arizona State sports for You can follow him on Twitter at @ConnorPelton28

When is Bobby Hurley going to call a timeout? That was the thought shared among Arizona State fans during the opening minutes of last Thursday’s game at Utah. Little did they know that no timeout was forthcoming. Not when Brandon Taylor drained a three-pointer to put the Utes up 9-0. Not when Jordan Loveridge dropped in another three to extend the lead to 12-0. Not even when Taylor buried another triple on the next possession to make the score 15-0. The game’s first break didn’t arrive until the under-16 media timeout with the Sun Devils trailing 15-2 and a comeback looking increasingly unlikely. It’s important to remember that Hurley is still learning on the job. After spending the previous two seasons at Buffalo, this is just his third campaign as a head coach. He is young and still evolving, picking up valuable experience every night out.

Hurley's High Energy On The Sidelines Has Gotten Him Into Some Trouble With Officials This Season (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

Hurley’s High Energy On The Sidelines Has Gotten Him Into Some Trouble With Officials This Season (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

So, why was there no timeout when already trailing by 15 in one of the conference’s toughest venues? First, the end of a long season is winding down – a season that is unlikely to result in a trip to the NCAA Tournament. There isn’t much to lose in this scenario, so why not experiment with letting the players work through their problems without assistance from the sideline? This wasn’t the only learning experience, as this season has been chalk full of them — beginning with a disheartening home opener loss to Sacramento State. Along the way Hurley has suspended three players for multiple team violations, been thrown out of a rivalry game against Arizona, dropped four conference games by seven points or fewer, lost a player to transfer just days removed from a career performance, and watched an assistant coach get arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Welcome to the Pac-12.

Despite all the hardships, there have been some successes too. Hurley led a limited roster through a hellacious schedule, notching home wins against Belmont, Texas A&M, Stephen F. Austin, USC, Oregon State and Stanford (not to mention victories against NC State, Creighton and UNLV away from Tempe). He has gotten the most from a team that has just eight scholarship players remaining — not an easy task for a first-year coach in a power conference. The stark lack of depth and height on his roster has resulted in a team that is at this point physically and mentally exhausted. Arizona State now sits at 15-15 (5-12 Pac-12) and is clearly limping through its final few games. In fact, the best part of the season right now might just be that it is almost over.

Hurley has taken a few punches over the past few months, but the important thing is that his program is still standing. He has survived year one in a power conference with a .500 record and things should only get better moving forward. Two four-star recruits have been signed in the class of 2016 and Arizona State is considered one of the favorites to land five-star center and difference-maker Thon Maker. The past few months have given the program some valuable lessons in rebuilding, ones that can be used as a springboard into Hurley’s sophomore season.

Reinforcements are coming to Tempe, and the future, like the sun in the desert, appears bright.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

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

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