Beat Kansas. Lose to Princeton. Lose to Washington State. Beat Washington. Beat Georgia. Lose to Vanderbilt. Inconsistent, frustrating, and maddening are all words that have been used to describe this version of Arizona State. On Saturday night in Tempe the Sun Devils showed that they can play with anybody by giving the Washington Huskies their first conference loss.
Although the Sun Devils walked out of Wells Fargo Arena with a 75-63 win it showed the up and down nature of Arizona State.
Let’s face facts. The Pac-12 was down last year and the conference is really down this year. Last season the conference got three teams into the Big Dance. This year it could only be two teams, so every win and loss is looked at critically for teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
Especially for the Sun Devils.
On paper, Arizona State has enough talent to be a NCAA Tournament team. With the inconsistent play they have showed there are doubts about whether or not they get in.
Right from the tip of Saturday’s nights game with Washington, the Sun Devils showed more energy. The ball was moving around on offense, the players were playing defense, and the Devils were dictating the tempo of the game.
Arizona State shot 62% from the field, had 42 points in the paint, and dominated the boards 40-23. The Sun Devils were doing positive things on the court that were going to pay dividends for them later in the game.
However, for every positive thing there were some maddening occurrences.
The Sun Devils turned the ball over 24 times. Yes, you saw that correctly. 24 turnovers.
Free throws for ASU is still an adventure. The Devils shot 58% from the line on Saturday night. That percentage will not get it done during the tournament.
That is assuming that the Sun Devils get into the NCAA Tourney. Arizona State still needs to finish the season and then it’s onto the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.
Anything can happen between now and the conference tourney in Las Vegas.
If it wasn’t for the Washington Huskies turning the ball over 17 times and shooting 35% from the field this game probably would have been closer.
Washington never looked comfortable during the game. The Huskies were missing shots that were makeable. Washington had good looks at the basket. The ball just didn’t go in.
Washington is still the best team in the conference, but the Huskies definitely showed that they can be beat.
Arizona State is a mystery team right now because as tuned in as the Sun Devils were against the Huskies there are times where you just shake your head.
Washington State, a team that has struggled all season, comes into Tempe and just manhandles Arizona State. The Sun Devils don’t even look interested in playing the game against the Cougars. It was a disaster of a game against a team that the Sun Devils should have beat.
I was surprised the Sun Devils were not booed off the court against the Cougars.
The same can be said with the Princeton game, Vanderbilt game, and the USC game.
Another aspect that adds to the up and down nature of the Sun Devils is that the team seems to go into cruise control. Going into this cruise control lets less talented teams stay in games and gives them confidence that they can beat Arizona State.
I hear the fans yelling all sorts of things about their teams lackadaisical play. I can not repeat what they are saying though.
All of this isn’t just confined to the players.
Bobby Hurley needs to better at constructing out of timeout sets. Like the free throw shooting, the inbounds plays out of a timeout have been an adventure all season. Calling timeouts to stop the momentum of the opposing team needs to better as well.
I get that Coach Hurley wants to hold onto his timeouts for the end of the game, but sometimes you just have to use them. As a coach, you need to stop the bleeding from time to time.
In the end, the Sun Devils have the talent to win the conference tournament and get to the NCAA Tournament, but these inconsistencies will come back to haunt them if not corrected in the next few weeks.