Pac-12 Conference play begins in the next couple of weeks. Arizona State finds itself hovering close to .500 as usual with no real feeling of going on some type huge run that would propel the Sun Devils into post season play. What can the Sun Devil fans realistically expect from the conference season?
More of the same in my opinion.
The Sun Devils do have more talent than last season. Having more talent usually translates to more wins, but so far it has looked like more of the same in Tempe.
Tra Holder, who is one the Pac-12’s more talented point guards has been joined by University of Buffalo transfer Shannon Evans. Evans had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. It has made for one of the best backcourts in the Pac-12. These two guards combine to score 32 a game which makes them the strength of the team.
While it is great to have a potent backcourt, if you have nothing down on the blocks you are one dimensional team. Right now, the Sun Devils are a one dimensional team.
Going into Pac-12 league play, the front court players for Arizona State have to have a bigger difference in games. Right now the only player having any sort of impact in the frontcourt is Obinna Oleka. Oleka is averaging 12 points a game and close to 10 rebounds a game. After Oleka, nobody averages over five rebounds a game for the Sun Devils.
Getting beat on the boards means your chances of winning go down considerably and when you lack size like the Sun Devils it can make for a long season. The tallest player Arizona State has is Jethro Tshisumpa at 6’10”. Jethro has an NBA body, but his skill level is still under development. He is a prototypical basketball project.
The other issue for the Sun Devils is that the bench is not deep. Bobby Hurley doesn’t really go past one or two on the bench. The experience level is not there for Hurley to get much more out of his bench. The only young player that he trusts right now is 6’6” guard Sam Cunliffe who gets about 25 minutes a game. Every other young player is seeing very limited amounts of playing time.
Coach Hurley is in the middle of a massive rebuild of the Sun Devil basketball team. It’s not only a rebuild of the basketball program, but an attitude change with players and fans.
Hurley needs to show improvement or at least he needs to show that the talent he is acquiring is competitive in most games. The perception that the future will be better for the Sun Devils needs to be there. Right now, it’s tough to see that because the record is right around where it usually is this time of year.
The Pac-12 schedule will not be an easy one for the Sun Devils. The Pac-12 has talented teams like UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon. Plus, it’s a conference that typically eats each other, so getting to any post season tournaments can be a difficult task for anybody in the Pac-12.
Arizona State has to overcome their lack of size and depth to make any noise in the Pac-12 during conference play. Coach Hurley needs to get career years out of Tra Holder, Shannon Evans, big play from the Sun Devil bench, and a huge collective effort on the boards to have any shot at post season play.
It’s a tough road for the Sun Devils, but anything is possible once you step between the baselines. Forks Up!