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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Pac-12 M5: 01.28.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 28th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. Oregon broke its five-game losing streak on Sunday night, but given that it came against the worst team in the league, doubts still remain as to whether its win over Washington State was a sign of a turnaround or merely the exploitation of a bad team. The good news is that we’ll get a good read on the answer to that question on Thursday night when the Ducks will host UCLA in Eugene. With the Bruins featuring both the second best offense and defense in conference play (according to KenPom.com) and the Ducks ranking sixth and ninth, respectively, clearly Oregon takes a step up in competition this week.
  2. Likewise, Arizona State turned things around a bit last week, backing up two road losses with a pair of road wins against the Rockies’ schools. One notable change for the Sun Devils came with sophomore forward Eric Jacobsen replacing junior wing Jonathan Gilling in the starting lineup. Gilling still earned more minutes than Jacobsen (55 to 36), but the change came in order to help give the 6’10” sophomore a potential confidence boost. While the numbers for Jacobsen weren’t huge (10 points, seven boards for the weekend), maybe the biggest benefit will come to Gilling who can give the Sun Devils a scoring jolt off the bench. Last week he made all seven of his three-point attempts and is averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 boards and 3.5 assists per game in his new role.
  3. Utah caught the attention of the nation for better than 30 minutes of action on Sunday night as the Utes gave Arizona a run for their money at the McKale Center. But, as has been the case often this year, Utah was unable to finish strong, fading late to the nation’s top-ranked team. While Larry Krystkowiak has turned his squad into a very competitive team (their five losses come by a combined total of 22 points), they’ve still got to learn how to take these strong efforts and turn them into wins. But with more talent on the way next year and almost everybody of note from this team expected to return, the future is bright indeed in Salt Lake City.
  4. USC played its best pair of back-to-back games over the weekend in coming away with a home split against the Bay Area schools. On Sunday afternoon they took Stanford to overtime, but once there, junior guard Chasson Randle carried the Cardinal home, scoring seven strong points in the overtime period. Still, the Trojans are coming along slowly but surely. Byron Wesley continues to be amazing; Strahinja Gavrilovic appears to be a piece worth planning around; and the Trojans’ top recruit – point guard Jordan McLaughlin – took in the game from the stands.
  5. Lastly, Washington freshman point guard Nigel Williams-Goss had his breakout performance on Saturday when he set a freshman single-game scoring record at the school with a 32-point outburst against Oregon State. With Oregon State focused on slowing C.J. Wilcox, Williams-Goss went wild, helping to bring the Huskies back from a double-figure second half deficit. And not only did he score in droves, but he did so in super-efficient fashion, getting all of his points in just 15 total field goal attempts.
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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: 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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