Best selling author, Jim George, once said “It’s not how start, it’s how you finish”. This quote fits the Arizona State men’s basketball team perfectly.
Anybody that follows college basketball knows that the Sun Devils started off their non-conference slate with impressive wins over Kansas and Xavier. The Sun Devils were running by their opponents, making three pointer after three pointer, be ranked number three in the country, and revving up their fans.
That seems like years ago.
Now the Sun Devils are possibly on the verge of not making the NCAA Tournament.
The Pac-12 Conference can have a way of making the best laid plans seem like a pipe dream. Teams in the Pac-12 also have a way of eating their own. That is exactly what happened with the Sun Devils.
Rational Sun Devil fans knew the Sun Devils were not going to be undefeated, but I just about guarantee that they didn’t expect this team to finish two games under .500 in conference play.
The fans and even the team didn’t expect to be possibly fighting for a way into the Big Dance in a couple of weeks.
After the close 84-83 loss to the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday afternoon, it left the players and fans of the Sun Devils feeling the sting of not finishing up the season with any momentum. The range of emotions felt in Wells Fargo Arena was palpable.
“The shots didn’t fall. This one hurt. This is my last game here. Means a lot to me, these people, this crowd. This one is going to sting.” Kodi Justice explained.
Justice, one of the senior leaders for the Sun Devils missed some crucial free throws down the stretch for his team. His three missed free throws probably would have been the difference in the game had they gone in.
It wasn’t meant to be. That's how life goes sometimes.
I will say this about Kodi Justice. He was the only player to come out and speak in the post game press conference. Justice faced the music head on and for that I have the upmost respect for him. It’s tough to lose a game, but to lose it the way the Sun Devils did hurts much more.
Arizona State has talent to make a run in the conference tournament, but inconsistencies remain with the team.
The Sun Devils are a perimeter team with no real threat on the inside. One of the post players for the Sun Devils are going to have to step up in the post season to make any sort of run.
Pac-12 teams have certainly figured what they want to do against the Sun Devils, it’s matter of executing that particular game plan. Teams will try and press or trap the Sun Devils, defend the three point line, and beat ASU on the boards to avoid any second shot opportunities for Tra Holder, Shannon Evans, or Kodi Justice.
There lies the big problem for Arizona State. With a guard heavy offense and lack of any real threat on the inside, the Sun Devils need players crashing the boards to generate extra opportunities.
However, what you have to remember with Arizona State is that the game is not over until the final buzzer goes off.
Teams have got off to big leads all season on the Sun Devils, but more than one time, the Devils have fought back to win the game. The Sun Devils have a propensity of having these huge runs in the second half. Holder, Evans, and Justice are usually at the center of those big runs by ASU. If those three players are hitting their shots, the Sun Devils will be in a good spot.
Is it the way a team wants to play? No, but by doing it so many times during the season, the Sun Devils believe that they are never out of a game.
Enter the Pac-12 Conference Tournament this week.
Kodi Justice remains optimistic.
“We know we are good enough to compete with anyone. We have a mind set of we are trying to win a championship.” Justice said.
Head coach Bobby Hurley is looking forward to going to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament.
“We have an amazing desire to win. I love my chances playing whoever we play in the post season.” Hurley said.
Remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish Sun Devil fans.