Pac-12 M5: 01.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 18th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. The likely brief Bob Cantu era begin at Southern California last night and, while his Trojans showed plenty of resiliency in sticking around with Oregon and fighting back from a late ten-point deficit to have a chance (okay, more like four chances, three of them point-blank) in the waning moments to win or send the game to overtime, his first game of his interim stretch still goes down in the record book as a loss. For the Top 25 Ducks, they escape the trap game in advance of this weekend’s more celebrated match-up with UCLA, but of concern is their seemingly newfound ability to take comfortable late-game leads and turn them into significantly uncomfortable late-game battles. Certainly much of that has to do with their freshman backcourt, but if UO wants to compete seriously for a Pac-12 title, they need to begin closing games more effectively.
  2. Earlier, up town a piece, UCLA was displaying a similar trait, although nowhere near as dramatically. For at least the fourth time in their five Pac-12 wins, the Bruins surged out to a comfortable lead, only to ease off the gas and let an overmatched opponent back into the game, this time against Oregon State. With the Ducks waiting on Saturday, that will not be an option. Aside from the game, there were other big goings-on at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night, as Jamaal Wilkes became just the eighth player to have his jersey retired at UCLA. On hand for the festivities were other such Bruin luminaries as Bill Walton (who handled the color duties for the ESPN broadcast), Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Mike Warren and Marques Johnson.
  3. The Oregon/UCLA game isn’t the only big-time Pac-12 game this weekend, as Arizona and Arizona State will square off in the battle for the Grand Canyon State Saturday as well. After ASU experienced a couple of very down years, they’re back in the mix in the conference, and their improvement on the defensive end is a large reason. Almost completely forsaking the match-up zone of the past, Herb Sendek has turned his team loose in man-to-man defense with athletic perimeter guys like Jahii Carson, Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon harassing ball-handlers and Jordan Bachynski cleaning up anyone that siphons through.
  4. Washington maybe the biggest story in the early going of conference play off of four straight wins to open Pac-12 in surprising fashion. Ben Knibbe of the UW Dawg Pound writes that the difference between the currently streaking Huskies and the team that lost to Albany and Nevada is that they’re finally beginning to play man-to-man defense at the level expected of Lorenzo Romar-coached teams. Part of that is due to veterans completely buying in, part of it is due to great team chemistry, but whatever the cause, so long as the defense remains a priority, expect the Huskies to keep on winning.
  5. We started the week with the Kevin O’Neill news, and its been a constant theme all week, so we might as well wrap it up by touching on it one last time. Pat Haden told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that not only is USC ready and willing to spend what it takes to land a big-name coach, but that he’s already had contact with people who are potentially interested in the job. But we’re all just going to have to wait and see what happens, because as Haden acknowledged, the guys that he is after aren’t going to be ready to commit to USC until after their NCAA Tournament runs are complete.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.03.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 3rd, 2012

  1. All things considered, it was a severely disappointing weekend for Pac-12 basketball, so let’s jump right into the week with the depressing news early and head to some better news towards the back end of the Morning Five. The most high-profile loss of the weekend for the conference was likely UCLA’s loss at the John Wooden Classic to San Diego State, a loss in which UCLA clearly abdicated the crown of California’s golden jewel of basketball programs to the Aztecs (if it hadn’t been abdicated earlier). And, in the wake of their early season struggles, Peter Yoon of ESPN.com puts the obvious into words: it is time to reassess this Bruin team, and the reassessment is not likely to be pretty. Yeah, there is certainly still talent here, but at this moment in time, a team that is starting three freshmen simply doesn’t have the experience yet to match up with a talented veteran squad like the Aztecs. There is still hope that a corner will be turned, but as Ben Howland put it after the game “there’s a lot of learning still that we’re doing.”
  2. At about the same time that UCLA was losing to the Aztecs, another Mountain West team was disposing of a highly regarded Pac-12 team, as Leonard Washington led Wyoming to a seven-point victory over Colorado. After the game, Tad Boyle laid the cards right on the table, pointing to CU’s turnovers and defensive struggles as the reasons for the loss. And he called out his team for its lack of cohesion, calling for players to accept their roles and play as a collective rather than a group of individuals. Really, when all is said and done, this loss may be a net positive for the team. As a young team, they’ve had some good success early in the season, but this being their first true road game, and one against a hard-nosed team, it is somewhat understandable that they didn’t bring their best. Look for Boyle to use this game as a lesson for his team as it heads into tougher games down the line. For the Buffaloes to again make their way through the minefield of Pac-12 road games, they’ll need to display a mental toughness that was severely lacking on Saturday night.
  3. And, speaking of a lack of mental toughness, California went into Madison yesterday and got absolutely drilled by Wisconsin, losing by 25 in a game in which they turned the ball over 23 times. Head coach Mike Montgomery blamed the loss on a poor week of practice, saying that “some of our guys just don’t prepare themselves for practice the way they should.” Like Colorado, Cal has had plenty of early season success, and a well-placed road game on the heels of all that success was a recipe for disaster. Allen Crabbe agreed with his coach, saying “we basically got what we deserved.” With visits from UNLV and Creighton due up next on the Golden Bears’ schedule, things aren’t going to get much easier, but at least Montgomery can use this loss as a wake-up call and he knows he’ll have those next two games in the friendly confines of Haas Pavilion.
  4. Okay, enough negativity, but we’ve got to transition from negativity to positivity slowly. So, we’ll mention that although Arizona kept alive its perfect record by going on the road and dispatching of Texas Tech, head coach Sean Miller still has some concerns about Mark Lyons as his lead guard. While Lyons leads the team in scoring with 14 points per night, he’s turning the ball over at a rate that far eclipses his ability to hand out assists to his teammates. But, Miller points out that although those turnovers are cause for concern, the coaching staff is addressing those concerns and that they’ve thus far found Lyons to be “a willing learner.” And, in the shadow of some of Lyons’ struggles, sophomore Nick Johnson has stepped into more of a lead-guard type of role and has handed out 13 assists against just one turnover in the past three games.
  5. And, to send you into the rest of your Monday will some full-fledged good news, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon broke out of a season-long slump in a big way on Saturday night, drilling five three-pointers in nine attempts (after hitting just 20.6% of his shots from deep in the team’s first six games) on his way to 29 points in the Sun Devils’ 20-point win over Sacramento State. Coming into the year, Gordon was expected to be a lights-out shooter on the wing, especially opposite penetrating point Jahii Carson, but his shot simply wasn’t falling early. For ASU to continue their winning ways, especially once they get to conference play, they’ll need Gordon to be a scorer for them on the wing, so while the early struggles with the shot can be discounted somewhat, it is comforting to see his shots begin to fall.
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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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Pac-12 M5: 10.26.12 Edition

Posted by PBaruh on October 26th, 2012

  1. The Washington Huskies had their first exhibition game two nights ago and knocked off Western Washington, 88-78, a much closer result than expected. Washington only committed 14 turnovers but couldn’t manage to pull away from the Vikings until the very end of the game. Abdul Gaddy struggled early, but redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews tallied 14 points to carry the team in the first half. Gaddy picked it back up in the second half and finished with 14 points as well. More importantly was the play of C.J. Wilcox, who led Washington with 21 points by shooting 7-14 from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. It’s October and it’s an exhibition so fans should not put too much stock into the margin of victory, but it was still a little too close for comfort.
  2. CBS came out with its top 30 freshman in America and, somewhat surprisingly, Shabazz Muhammad was listed as third behind Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. After Muhammad comes his other currently questionably-eligible teammate, Kyle Anderson at #4. Brandon Ashley of Arizona is the next to make an appearance on the list at #15 and then Jahii Carson of Arizona State lands at #23 followed by Grant Jerrett at #24. Carson will have an impact at Arizona State, but that slot seems a bit high for him. Yes, he’s an athletic, great ball-handling guard, but other players like Josh Scott of Colorado or Kaleb Tarczewski of Arizona could have a bigger impact than him.
  3. CBS also ranked its  top 25 transfers, and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, now at Arizona, was ranked as the number one transfer. It’s hard to argue with this call considering Lyons will be a key cog for this Wildcat squad. He’ll take on the point guard spot for Sean Miller and should have a much larger impact than Josiah Turner did last year. Only two others from the Pac-12 made the list with Larry Drew II of UCLA coming in at #20 and Evan Gordon of Arizona State at #24. Those both seem like justifiable choices, however, leaving J.T. Terrell from USC  off the list is questionable, especially considering the fact that these same people listed him among the top 100 players in the nation. Terrell should play a big role for USC this year and although  he might not be the most notable player, he should still be on this list.
  4. UCLA’s number one recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, injured his shoulder on Wednesday at practice, and the results of his MRI came back yesterday. Muhammad will be out of action from 2-4 weeks with a shoulder strain. The injury is to his non-shooting shoulder, but it’s still a bad injury to have for a player of Muhammad’s caliber and just another thing to go wrong for the Bruins. Exactly two weeks from today, UCLA starts its season against Indiana State and while no one expected Muhammad to be declared eligible in time for that game, this effectively seals the fact that the year will begin without Muhammad in uniform. If everything breaks just exactly perfect for UCLA and Muhammad, he could make his debut in Brooklyn at the Legends Classic, but really, at this point, that is little more than wishful thinking.
  5. Hey, hey. Andrew stepping in here to take over the last bit of the Morning Five from Parker today, just because I wanted to gloat a little bit. Connor and I have been going back and forth all year picking every football game involving a Pac-12 team, and, well, ever since Washington State laid down for BYU back on the opening weekend of the seas0n, Connor has been kicking my butt. Wait. Actually, check that. Let’s make that “had been” kicking my butt. After week one, I was two games back. Just a week later I was down four. But, I didn’t panic, nailed the Stanford over SC upset, then came back a week later to take Washington over those same Cardinal, and by last Saturday afternoon when David Shaw’s bunch was wrapping up a victory in The Big Game, I had come all the way back AND taken a one-game lead over my foe. So, yeah, I’m spiking the ball a little bit harder these week, but I’m saving my touchdown dance for the final whistle, because we’ve got a pair of games this weekend on which we differ. Picks below, including our game of the week in bold. But, really, how can I lose to a guy who was so wrong about last week’s game of the week that he missed the final score of Oregon’s win over Arizona State by a whole six points?
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Colorado at Oregon Oregon Oregon
    California at Utah California Utah
    Oregon State at Washington Oregon State 28-17 Washington 21-20
    UCLA at Arizona State UCLA UCLA
    USC at Arizona USC USC
    Washington State at Stanford Stanford Stanford
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Pac-12 M5: 10.11.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 11th, 2012

  1. Arizona State’s media day was on Tuesday, and as always, the ASU sports information department does a great job of getting their information out there. As ASU’s director of media relations Doug Tammaro put it, he’s got over 5,000 words on the Sun Devil basketball team, with tons of quotes from head coach Herb Sendek and players Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon. Given the fact that the team is coming off back-to-back subpar seasons (22-40 in the last two years), the Sun Devils have a lot to prove, but just reading through the enthusiasm that Sendek has about this collection of players and the confidence that Carson has in himself and his teammates, it isn’t that hard to envision this team overachieving its way into an upper-division conference finish. A lot would have to break right for that to happen, and the team needs to break through the Murphy’s Law culture that has seemingly taken hold in Tempe, but this ASU team should be an interesting watch all year long.
  2. Elsewhere in Tempe, Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic published an interview with ASU sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling on Sunday, and it too paints a picture of a Sun Devil squad ready to surprise people. Gilling, who came out of nowhere to start 18 games for the team and score in double figures eight times in conference play (quite an accomplishment as no better than a third option on a low-scoring team), looks around the roster and sees far more threats to give the opposition problems. Beginning with Carson and Gordon, but also extending to rapidly improving big man Jordan Bachynski and another incoming transfer in Bo Barnes, Gilling sees a completely different team. And, once again, we’ve got testimony from inside the program that Sendek’s promises for a more uptempo approach, including significantly more man-to-man defense, are not just lip service.
  3. Up in Pullman, Washington State is ready to plow ahead without the services of recently dismissed point guard Reggie Moore. Moore was head coach Ken Bone’s first recruit to WSU, but there is no use looking back now for him; he needs to begin to plan for the season without an obvious true point. At first glance it appears that it will be a point-guard-by-committee approach, with sophomore combo guard DaVonte Lacy, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge, senior wing Mychal Ladd and sophomore Dexter Kernich-Drew all potentially chipping in to help get the Cougars into their offense. And, while we’re on Wazzu for a second, be honest, how many of you knew that former Oregon wing Brett Kingma landed in Pullman? Clearly, some of you did, but somehow this completely escaped my attention. It’s a good get for Bone, even if his freshman year in Eugene was a little bumpy and even if he’ll lose a year of eligibility by transferring within the conference.
  4. UCLA’s media day was yesterday, but it was significantly less revealing, if only because the biggest question about the Bruins’ season – if and when Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson will be declared eligible – remains presently unanswerable. So much so that UCLA had their vice chancellor of legal affairs, Kevin S. Reed, monitoring the press conference so that schools officials could remind the media whenever necessary that they wouldn’t be answering any questions about the NCAA review of Muhammad and Anderson’s eligibility. On a brighter note, however, it was announced that Pauley Pavilion is not only really, really close to being a completed project, but it is also a project that came in $44 million under budget. So, you know, the next time you’ve got a project that is gonna run you some nine-digit dollar amount, I believe UCLA’s got a contractor they can recommend.
  5. We’re back to the gridiron tonight with a less-than-stellar Thursday night affair between Arizona State and Colorado, and that means it is time for Connor and I to renew our prognosticating battle. I made up another game on Connor last week when USC bounced back from a rough start to pull away from Utah in the second half. Last week’s results leave Connor at 35-13 for the year, while I’m two games back at 33-15. Below are this week’s picks, with our predicted scores for our game of the week (Stanford at Notre Dame) in bold.
    Game Connor’s Pick Drew’s Pick
    Arizona State at Colorado Arizona State Arizona State
    Utah at UCLA UCLA UCLA
    California at Washington State Washington State California
    Oregon State at Brigham Young Brigham Young Oregon State
    USC at Washington USC USC
    Stanford at Notre Dame Notre Dame 38-31 Notre Dame 19-13
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Arizona State Week: What To Expect In 2012-13

Posted by AMurawa on June 15th, 2012

After a week’s worth of breaking down the Sun Devils, it is time to give a way-too-early preview as to their chances in 2012-13. With six newcomers, some of whom are expected to play very big roles, five returnees who could see a change in their roles, and the possibility of an increased tempo, there are plenty of questions whose answers will remain unknown until we get a chance to see this team in action. But, that never stopped anybody from making wild, relatively unfounded predictions based on limited information. So away we go.

ASU’s Leading ScorerEvan Gordon. Jahii Carson could lead the team in scoring if he wanted to, but the Sun Devils would likely be better off if he doesn’t. Carson’s primary role should be distributing the ball to his teammates and when necessary hitting the jumper or driving the lane to score. But wings like Gordon and senior Carrick Felix could be the beneficiaries of Carson’s playmaking ability. Not only can Gordon score in transition, but he can hit the three or drive to the hoop and create in the lane. This will likely be a team with balanced scoring (four players on this team could score in double figures), but we’ll give the nod to Gordon as the likely go-to scorer in the halfcourt.

With A New Cast Of Characters, The Sun Devils Hope To Get Wells Fargo Arena Rocking Again

ASU’s MVPJahii Carson. Assuming he lives up to expectations, the Sun Devils should be much better with his presence. Last year, in the absence of a steady point guard, ASU turned the ball over at an egregious rate. Carson should not only help the team cut down on turnovers, but he should also be capable of getting the ball to ASU’s best offensive options at the times and places where they can be most effective. And, if all else breaks down, he has the ability to create an opportunity for himself at the end of the shot clock, erasing bad end-of-clock looks that were a staple of ASU’s 10-21 year last season.

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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: Herb Sendek Promises A Faster Pace, Should We Believe Him?

Posted by AMurawa on June 14th, 2012

In talking to head coach Herb Sendek last week, one comment of his stood out about a change in the direction of his program. “I think the expectation is that we’ll play as fast as anyone in our conference, given the change in our personnel,” he said, referring primarily to speedy freshman point guard Jahii Carson. However, even with a new point guard who is most comfortable in the open court and a handful of athletic wings — given Sendek’s history — if that claim actually comes true it will represent a change in philosophy from the last 10 years of his coaching career. Note that last season, the most uptempo team in the Pac-12 conference, Oregon State, averaged 71.4 possessions per game. The team that played at the sixth fastest conference tempo was UCLA, averaging 66 possessions per game, representing roughly the median point in all of Division I. By comparison, only twice in the last decade of Sendek’s career has his team played at an adjusted tempo better than 66 possessions per game (according to KenPom.com), and not once over that span has his team broken the 67-possession barrier.

Season

Team

Adjusted Tempo

National Ranking

2011-12

Arizona State

63.6

281

2010-11

Arizona State

63.9

296

2009-10

Arizona State

62.5

326

2008-09

Arizona State

60.0

333

2007-08

Arizona State

62.3

315

2006-07

Arizona State

59.2

329

2005-06

North Carolina State

66.0

209

2004-05

North Carolina State

64.1

287

2003-04

North Carolina State

63.9

292

2002-03

North Carolina State

66.8

258

As the above table shows, Sendek’s history belies a coach who likes to play at a below-average tempo. His history over that span also shows a strategy that generally eschews offensive rebounding in favor of getting back and setting up a stingy halfcourt defense, supports an offense that is generally quite efficient and shoots the ball at a high percentage, while registering assists on a high percentage of shots and keeping turnover rates low. That’s what you think of when you think of a Sendek team.

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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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2012

  1. With California’s defeat in the First Four on Wednesday night, Colorado is left alone to carry the flag for the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA Tournament. And they made a fine showing on Thursday night, roaring out to a 20-point second half lead over UNLV before letting off the gas, and allowing the Rebels back into the game. But, the Buffaloes were able to cobble things back together, sparked by a great block from Andre Roberson that turned into a Carlon Brown slam on the other end. At the end of the regular season, the Buffs were in a do-or-die scenario, needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance even this far. But, it is clear now, as they ride a five-game winning streak that “do” was the choice the team made.
  2. In the wake of California’s loss to South Florida, there is a feeling of disappointment around the Golden Bear program. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, they were tied for first in the Pac-12 conference and seemed to be on the road to a special season. Instead, they lost four of their last five, capped by a terrible performance against the Bulls. Now seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp move on, while head coach Mike Montgomery is, apparently, left to rebuild around guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. But with every season the 65-year-old head coach wraps up, there is some question as to whether he’s nearing the end. Thus far, there are  no indications that he’s planning a retirement party in the immediate future, but, especially after October’s bladder cancer scare, there is the chance that at any time, Montgomery could be ready to move on.
  3. One of the defenses of Johnny Dawkins’ poor showing in his time at Stanford is that he inherited a bare cupboard when he took the program over from Trent Johnson. But Jon Wilner sees through that claim and shoots it down, noting that Dawkins’ first roster included two all-conference honorable mention selections from the previous year (Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson), an all-conference first-team member from two years previous (Lawrence Hill) and junior forward Landry Fields who was about to turn into an NBA-caliber player. Now, of course Dawkins should get some credit for Fields’ development, but the fact is there was enough talent on the Cardinal roster to finish higher than the ninth-place slot they wound up in.
  4. Utah’s offseason is off to a pretty good start, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak got his first oral commitment from a 2013 recruit on Thursday, from 6’3” point guard Julian Jacobs. With freshman Kareem Storey having taken over the lead guard role in the wake of Josh Watkins’ dismissal this year, he may have the edge on Jacobs when the newcomer arrives, but as Krystkowiak learned this season, you can never have too many point guards.
  5. Arizona State is another program that needs and influx of talent. And while they’ve got some Division I recruits (Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon) that will be eligible next year and freshman point guard Jahii Carson finally able to kick start his career in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is spending his NCAA Tournament time hitting the road in search of additional help.
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