Here are some takeaways from the week that was in the Pac-12.
Arizona State Isn’t Going Away
The Sun Devils were impressive once again in another week of Pac-12 action by going 2-0 and continuing to win games they weren’t expected to win. First, Arizona State beat USC 98-93 in overtime by holding off a valiant effort from the Trojans. Then, they picked up their biggest win of the season as they were victorious over UCLA. Yes, UCLA was coming off a huge win against Arizona itself and might not have been particularly excited to play the Sun Devils two days later. Even without the presence of Travis Wear, the Bruins still have a lot of talent but that didn’t stop Arizona State from dominating the entire game. The great play of Jahii Carson has obviously been key in Arizona State’s success, but Carrick Felix’s improvement has been important as well. Felix was named ESPN’s National Player of the Week for his 16-point, 1o-rebound effort against USC and his 23-point, 11-rebound effort against UCLA. He is also second on the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and first in rebounding with 8.2 boards per contest. Without the maturity and improvement of Carrick Felix, the Sun Devils would not be where they are at right now.
Felix and Carson have had the largest impacts, but Arizona State has also been helped out by the strong play of Jordan Bachnyski. The 7’2″ center has been phenomenal on defense in rejecting 4.3 shots per game and blocking 15.6 percent of the shots taken while he is on the floor. He’s also been great at limiting his fouls as he’s only picked up more than three fouls once in conference play thus far and has yet to foul out all season. And he had his most impressive performance of the year against UCLA, with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks in the Sun Devils’ big win.
After two consecutive dismal years in the Pac-12 where Herb Sendek’s team only managed 22 total wins, they’ve finally turned it around. Jahii Carson has been incredible, and Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachnyski deserve a majority of the credit as well. Many thought Arizona State would prove that their strong record before conference play was due to an easy schedule, but the Sun Devils are proving their legitimacy with wins over Colorado and UCLA. Up next, Arizona State is on the road against Washington and Washington State. If they can sweep, Arizona State might no longer be on the bubble and could be looking at a great shot to make the NCAA Tournament and contend for a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.