Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Arizona State

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 10th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Up first, Arizona State.

What Went Right

Jermaine Marshall and Shaquielle McKissic were largely excellent in their only seasons in Tempe (McKissic will be petitioning the NCAA for an additional season of eligibility). Jordan Bachynski capped his stellar Sun Devils career with his best season and an all-time conference record for career blocked shots. And Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils earned their first NCAA Tournament appearance since James Harden was on campus.

Arizona State

Arizona State Went Dancing, But It Ended With a Heartbreaking Putback by Texas

What Went Wrong

Still, despite that major accomplishment, you’ve got to feel that this team left money on the table at the end of the year. First, just the way they lost their NCAA Tournament game, falling to Texas on a buzzer-beater when the Longhorns’ last two buckets came on offensive rebounds after airballs – ouch! And Jahii Carson, the team’s best player and arguably a more talented player than what he showed, struggled through a rough season, with questions about his game confirmed and others about his leadership raised anew. Sendek did a solid job with this team, a squad that had some obvious holes in it. But still, this feels like a team that had an NCAA Tournament win (or two) in them but failed to get the job done.

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Arizona State Post-Mortem

Posted 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.

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

Jahii Carson Helped Make Sun Devil Basketball Cool Again (credit: Arizona State)

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.

MVP

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.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.12.12 Edition

Posted by KDanna on November 12th, 2012

  1. The Pac-12 men’s basketball season got off to an inauspicious start before the first night of games even finished. It wasn’t because of a loss to a low-major school, though; rather, UCLA freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible  before the Bruins took the court for their Pauley Pavilion opener against Indiana State (an eventual blowout victory). The relationship between financial advisor Benjamin Lincoln and the Muhammad family was not deemed to be close enough to warrant Lincoln paying for Muhammad’s visits to Duke and North Carolina. Baxter Holmes of the L.A. Times further reported that Muhammad could miss the first 10 games of the season before he is cleared to compete, according to NCAA reinstatement guidelines. While it certainly isn’t great news, there is perhaps at least a little more clarity on when Muhammad can play and, more importantly, that eventually he can play. If the L.A. Times article is correct, then Muhammad will at least be able to suit up for a couple of non-conference tilts before the Pac-12 slate gets underway in January. However, this means that he won’t be available for arguably the Bruins’ most important non-conference stretch in the Legends Classic against Georgetown and potentially Indiana.
  2. While Arizona State got off on the right foot with a 15-point victory over Central Arkansas on Saturday, the Sun Devils received some not-so-nice news when it was officially declared that freshman guard Calaen Robinson would not play this year. While the three-star recruit wasn’t nearly as highly touted as Jahii Carson, this is now two years in a row that an Arizona State freshman has had to sit out his first year in Tempe. No official reason was given for the decision, but Doug Haller of AZ Central reports that school police had confirmed they were investigating a matter that involved the freshman Robinson (no charges had been filed). He wouldn’t have started, but he could have added some depth in the backcourt with his reported quickness, good defense and nice shooting touch.
  3. On the bright side of things, the Pac-12 survived the first weekend of competition without suffering a bad loss. There were a couple of hairy moments (namely, Arizona sweating one out against Big South favorite Charleston Southern and the end of the Oregon State-New Mexico State game), but with it all said and done for the weekend, the Pac-12 is one of just two conferences in all of Division I (the Big 12 being the other) that can claim to be perfect through three days. And sure, the conference probably only beat three teams that have a chance of sniffing the RPI Top 100 (Stanford over USF, UCLA over Indiana State and Oregon State over New Mexico State), but it’s the first step in the right direction for a conference that has had such a bad competitive reputation around the country over the last three seasons.
  4. The best thing about the 2012-13 season is that you will have plenty of opportunities to watch Pac-12 basketball thanks to the advent of the Pac-12 Networks, which is set to broadcast 150 games, including eight Pac-12 Tournament contests. Bill Walton writes as much in his season primer for the Pac-12 website, sounding exuberant and hyperbolic as always. Out of all the talent hires the Pac-12 Networks made, signing up Walton was probably their best decision. Hearing the former UCLA great call somebody the best inbounds passer or best player at boxing out others in the conference will bring a smile to many a face all over the country. The dividends have already paid off, as we have seen all but UCLA on the Networks and all 12 teams have made a television appearance in the first weekend of play.
  5. A little bit of recruiting news came out late last week when Schuyler Rimmer announced that he was committing to Stanford. A 6’10’’, 255-pound center (according to his Scout profile), Rimmer will give the Cardinal another big body down low, something that looks like a necessity after watching Stanford give up 13 offensive rebounds to USF on Friday night. Originally a Florida commitment, the Orlando prospect becomes the third Stanford recruit in the Class of 2013, following in the footsteps of twin guards Marcus (a top-100 recruit) and Malcolm Allen out of Las Vegas. Of course, the Cardinal aren’t done on the recruiting trail as they hope to land the second-biggest fish in the pond in Jabari Parker, who at last word was likely to make a decision in December.
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Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by AMurawa on November 2nd, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Arizona State Sun Devils.

Strengths.  The biggest strength the Sun Devils may have this season is enthusiasm, confidence and camaraderie. Two years ago, a combination of bad luck and senioritis killed the team’s season before conference play had even gotten into the grind. Last year, poor team chemistry and low expectations conspired to sap ASU of energy before even the New Year. This year, there is a swagger about the program, in part due to the confidence that newly eligible guys like Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon bring along with them. It also doesn’t hurt that those players have been in the program for a couple of years and know and like their teammates. That injection of talent combined with improving veterans and, as of right now, the Sun Devils have the feel of a team with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. That alone can take some of the 64-61 and 68-65 losses that ASU suffered last year (six of their first nine defeats were by six points or less) and turn those into wins. That newfound attitude coupled with a pretty significant upgrade in talent could equal the first step on the road to redemption for Herb Sendek’s program.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

With Jahii Carson Leading The Way, This Edition Of The Sun Devils Has More Swagger Than Recent Teams

Weaknesses. A note on the above, all that good will and happiness could go south right quick if a couple bad bounces go against ASU; “here we go again” and all that. There are a couple of other significant areas that the Sun Devils need to improve on, however: turnovers and defense. Last year, ASU was in the bottom half of the country in defensive efficiency. And on the offensive end of the court, ASU turned the ball over more frequently than all but three other teams in Division I (according to KenPom), leading to pretty awful offensive numbers as well. Now, the addition of Carson alone could mean improvements in both of those areas, but with the new point guard comes a new faster-paced offense (just how much faster remains to be seen). And, if the freshman gets a little to amped up in an effort to push the pace, it is possible that those turnovers could stick around as well.

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Arizona State Week’s Burning Question: Is Herb Sendek The Right Man For the Sun Devil Job?

Posted by AMurawa on June 14th, 2012

When Herb Sendek left North Carolina State after the 2005-06 season to move to Arizona State, he had the reputation of a coach who had gotten the most out of his players. And after three-straight 20-win seasons in at ASU, two years ago he looked like he was going to be a fixture in Tempe for the foreseeable future. But last year, after a second consecutive dismal season and with players transferring out of the program at a rapid rate, there were some in the Sun Devil community calling for his head. Is Sendek still the right man for the ASU job and how important is the 2012-13 season for his future in Tempe?

Andrew Murawa: While the last two seasons have been undeniably disappointing and the epidemic of transfers certainly could be interpreted as something rotten at the heart of the program, Sendek has earned the benefit of the doubt in Tempe. Unfortunately, of the four losing seasons in his 19-year career, three have come at ASU, including the last two. Still, there are those three other 20-win seasons and three postseason appearances, only two of which came with the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, James Harden. And, while the 2010-11 failure remains somewhat inexplicable, last year’s struggles can in part be chalked up to some bad luck. The bad luck excuse doesn’t get you far, however, and another season as gloomy as the last two will have the buzzards circling even with the two-year extension that Sendek signed last December that will ostensibly keep him around through 2016. But, the good news is that Sendek has proven over the long haul that he can coach. And, in a state like Arizona that doesn’t produce a large number of great major conference-caliber prospects, his ability to coach his players up is a must. This year should begin to see the return of the ASU program, with Jahii Carson supplying an answer at point, and with guys like Evan Gordon, Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski reaping the benefit of a playmaking guard. While the Sun Devils certainly shouldn’t be expected to compete for a conference title, it is hard to envision this roster not showing significant improvement.

Herb Sendek, Arizona Statee

In 19 Seasons As A Head Coach, Sendek Has Had Four Losing Seasons, But Three Have Come In Tempe (Kirby Lee, US Presswire)

Connor Pelton: I see 2012-13 as a make or break year for Sendek. We don’t have to see any magical “10 wins one season, 22 and an NCAA Tournament appearance” the next, but improvement and roster stability is a must. Even with the losses of three key contributors plus a role player since January, the troops have arrived in Tempe and the pieces are in place for at least an NIT berth next season. While it will take a while to replace the productivity of Trent Lockett, highly-touted guard Jahii Carson is going to do his best to speed up that process. If he plays anywhere near the potential we’ve been hearing about, he will be one of the best freshman guards in the Pac-12. Replacing arguably the Pac-12′s most improved player through two and a half months last season will be ambitious as well, but freshman Calaen Robinson could very will fill the hole left by Keala King. Growing up 20 minutes away from Tempe, Robinson decided to keep his talents in the Valley of the Sun. The decision could prove to be huge for ASU has Robinson will be more fit to handle the true point guard duties. Filling the holes will be one thing, but equally important will be building and keeping relationships with the entire roster. Numerous players were in Sendek’s doghouse throughout last year, which would lead to the eventual dismissal of King. If Sendek can avoid any more roster shakeup and post a winning record, his job should be safe.

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Arizona State Week: One-on-One With Jahii Carson

Posted by AMurawa on June 13th, 2012

Point guard Jahii Carson signed with Arizona State as the crown jewel of their 2011 recruiting class, a four-star recruit rated by ESPNU as the eighth-best point guard in his class. With lightning quick speed and stunning athleticism, Carson was supposed to provide Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils with a pure point guard, something that the team had been missing in 2010-11. But, after being declared academically ineligible for the 2011-12 season, he spent last season watching from the bench as his new team struggled to a 10-21 season. However, Carson’s academics are back on track and he is expected to slide right into the starting lineup this season for the Sun Devils. RTC’s Andrew Murawa had a chance to talk to Carson last week.

Andrew Murawa: Last year was not a great year for the team and it must have been hard for you sitting out and watching your team as it struggled. Were there any positives you got out of watching your team last year?

Jahii Carson: I like to think of myself as a student of the game. And watching games when I’m not playing, when I’m not on the court, I can see things that I wouldn’t see if I was on the court. I can break down the other team’s defenses, I can look at what type of offenses we can run against those defenses. I can learn my teammates’ skills and their weaknesses. I can learn what offense they thrive in and where and how they want the ball on offense. So, I just became more of a student of the game having to sit on the sidelines.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State

Sun Devil Fans Are Looking Forward To Seeing Jahii Carson Finally Put On An Arizona State Uniform (Aaron Lavinsky)

AM: You got a chance to practice with the team last year as did transfers Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon. Having a year before you actually got a chance to step on the court, does that give you a benefit going into this season?

JC: Being able to practice with the guys, being able to learn their strengths and weaknesses, that helps me figure out how I can be better on the basketball court helping them. Evan Gordon, he’s more of a scorer, a slasher – a smaller, undersized slasher – but he uses his tools to his ability. Bo Barnes is more of a three-point shooter, who is learning to put the ball on the floor and being able to beat defenders off the dribble. And me being able to practice and watch them grow as players every day allowed me to make those assessments about those guys. So, I think that me sitting out last year helped me learn my teammates’ game and their strengths and weaknesses a bit more.

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Arizona State Week: Six Newcomers Give Roster A New Look

Posted by AMurawa on June 13th, 2012

For a team looking to remake itself after two down seasons, there couldn’t be a better time for the program to welcome in six new faces, especially when three of those guys (Division I transfers Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon, and academically ineligible point guard Jahii Carson) were able to practice with the team during last season. Barnes and Gordon also come with the benefit of having previous D-I experience, including some serious run at their previous stops. Alongside those three players, Herb Sendek also gains the services of three incoming freshmen. Below we’ll take a look at these six new players and gauge what type of impact they could have and what type of role they might play in their first years in Tempe.

Jahii Carson, Freshman, Point Guard, 5’11” 160lbs, Mesa High School, Phoenix, AZ – It’s been two years since Derek Glasser graduated from ASU, and in the interim, Sendek and staff have had to man the point guard spot by patchwork. Now with Carson’s eligibility, there is little doubt who the man is at the lead guard spot. “It is always in a program’s best interests to decide (roles and playing time) once practice starts,” noted Sendek, “but at the same time, it is widely recognized that Jahii is a terrific talent and there is tremendous excitement around him being able to play next year.” That special talent includes tremendous speed in the open court, a great handle, tremendous court vision and the ability, even while clocking in at below six-feet, to throw down spectacular dunks in traffic. In fact, Carson’s playmaking ability in uptempo situations even has Sendek committed to upping the pace. “I think the expectation is that we’ll play as fast as anyone in our conference, given the change in our personal,” he confirmed. While that type of statement needs to be seen to be completely believed, Carson, for one, is completely on board. “I think that the tempo that Coach is looking to play at, all of our players can thrive in that system,” said Carson. That may well be true, but he’ll need to be the engine that drives that car in order for that change to work out.

Evan Gordon, Arizona State

Evan Gordon Is Just One Of The Newcomers Who Could Give The Sun Devils More Of An Offensive Punch

Evan Gordon, Junior, Shooting Guard, 6’3” 200 lbs, Liberty University – Gordon, the younger brother of Eric Gordon, the former Indiana star and current NBA player, played two seasons at Liberty, leading the Flames in scoring (14.4 PPG) his sophomore season. He plays off the ball, but has a good handle for a two-guard, and is at his best as a scorer, slashing to the basket and setting up those drives with a solid three-point shot (34.4% in his college career). One concern about his first two seasons was the drastic drop in his shooting percentages as a sophomore when he became the team’s go-to player. While he’ll likely not be expected to fill the same role at ASU, he will be required to provide the team with some offensive punch, and may even get a chance to back up Carson at the point. And, with the team looking to push the pace a bit more in the open court, he could be a good weapon running the wing on a fast break. He should be ready to step in from day one and play a big role for the Sun Devils.

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Arizona State: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted 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.

Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Not A Lot Went Right For Herb Sendek And The Sun Devils This Year (Harry How, Getty Images)

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.

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