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2014-15 Season Preview: Arizona St.

The Sun Devils are bound for a rebuilding year after losing Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski.

Shaquielle McKissic will have to step up this year for the Sun Devils
Shaquielle McKissic will have to step up this year for the Sun Devils
Ethan Miller

Last Season: Arizona St.'s season ended in devastation as Texas nailed a buzzer-beater to best the Sun Devils 87-85 in the round of 64. Nevertheless, the year was still a success for Herb Sendek as he led the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009 and finished 21-12 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12. Jahii Carson led the offense while Jordan Bachynski anchored a top 50 defense with the team's season highlight coming with a 69-66 overtime victory over then 23-1 Arizona.

Key Losses: Carson, who was named to the All Pac-12 First Team for the second straight season, left Tempe to go pro after being the spark plug for the offense game after game. He used 31.6 percent of the possessions while on the floor and led Arizona St. with 18.6 points per game. After going undrafted, Carson signed to play professionally in Australia.

Bachynski's departure, however, may be more critical. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year graduated and leaves the Sun Devils amiss on defense. Bachynski had an absurd 133 blocks last season and posted the 11th best block rate in the nation. Jermaine Marshall, their second leading scorer with 15.8 points per game, graduated as well.

Notable Returning Players: Shaquielle McKissic and Jonathan Gilling are the only two starters to return for Arizona St. McKissic seems poised to emerge as the go-to-guy for the Sun Devils. He is the leading returning scorer and surprisingly posted the best offensive rating last season.

Gilling shot a team-best 43 percent from three and had the highest true shooting percentage on the team. 98.5 percent of his threes were assisted and without Bachynski demanding doubles or Carson creating, he'll have to improve on getting his own shot. Bo Barnes and Eric Jacobsen, both minor bench contributors, look to fill bigger roles this year for Arizona St. as well.

Key Newcomers: Savon Goodman, former UNLV player and four-star prospect, joined the Sun Devils in the offseason and brings needed athleticism to a depleted team. The 6-foot-6 forward has plenty of room to improve as he only averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds as a Runnin' Rebel. He won't be eligible until December.

JUCO transfer Willie Atwood is another multi-dimensional forward that will attempt to shore up the front court. The 6-foot-8 Atwood was a four-star commitment and averaged 20.8 points and 9 rebounds per game at Connors State. Incoming guards Tra Holder and Gerry Blakes also will be looking to contribute for Herb Sendek. Blakes is a transfer combo guard and was the California JUCO player of the year while Holder has big shoes to fill as Jahii Carson's replacement. Holder will have his growing pains, but his quickness and speed should allow Arizona St. to maintain their up-tempo offense.

Non-Conference Games to Look at: Arizona St. will take part in the CBE Classic in Kansas City and start off against Maryland. The Terrapins remain in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and should provide a measuring stick for the Sun Devils early in the season. Their two toughest challenges of non-conference play will come against UNLV and Harvard. The Runnin' Rebels feature a pair of top 20 recruits in Rashad Vaughn and Dwayne Morgan and Harvard is once again favored to win the Ivy League.

Best-Case Scenario: Herb Sendek gets great play out of his transfers and newcomers and seniors Gilling and McKissic lead the way. The Sun Devils finish 7th in a cluttered middle in the Pac-12 and earn a postseason berth in the NIT.

Worst-Case Scenario: The departures of Bachynski, Carson and Marshall are too much to replace and the Sun Devils never mesh with all the new faces on the roster. After making the NCAA Tournament last season, Arizona St. struggles and finishes in the bottom three of the Pac-12.

Projected Finish: 9th