Scouting report: Arizona State
Game info: 5 p.m. Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena (10,734 capacity).
TV: ESPNU (Beth Mowins and Jon Crispin).
Radio: 950-AM KJR (Bob Rondeau and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Herb Sendek is 131-11 (.541) in his eighth season with the Sun Devils and 385-269 (.589) in 21 years a Division I head coach. Prior to joining Arizona on April 6, 2006, he spent 10 seasons (1996-06) at North Carolina State where he had a 191-132 (.591) record and made five straight NCAA tournament appearances. Sendek was 63-26 (.708) three years (1993-96) at Miami (OH).
Prediction: Picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll in the Pac-12 by media who cover the conference.
Series: Washington leads 39-37 in a series that began Nov. 28, 1977. UW has a seven-game winning streak against ASU. The Huskies have won six of the past seven games at Wells Fargo Arena. They’re 14-21 all-time in Tempe, Ariz. UW coach Lorenzo Romar is 19-6 against the Sun Devils. Sendek is 4-10 against UW.
Last meeting: Scott Suggs scored 16 points and hit a three-pointer with 34 seconds left, helping Washington hold off Arizona State 68-59 on Feb. 23, 2013 in front of 10,004 at Wells Fargo Arena on Senior Night. The Huskies led by 12 points midway through the second half and nearly blew it all, allowing the Sun Devils to pull within one. Abdul Gaddy, who had 13 points, hit a big jumper and Suggs followed with his 3-pointer to keep Arizona State from completing the comeback. UW dominated ASU inside, grabbing 13 more rebounds and scoring 14 points off 14 offensive boards.
Previous game: Arizona State capped its nonconference season with a 74-61 win over UC Irvine at Wells Fargo Arena.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Washington fans surely remember Jahii Carson who dropped 32 points on the Huskies at Alaska Airlines Arena, which was the fourth most points ever by a Pac-12 freshman in a road game. The 5-10, 180-pound sophomore just might be the best point guard in the nation. He can do it all. He can score – his career high is 40 points. He can create shots for others – he’s averaging 5.4 assists. And he’s not a liability on the defensive end despite his size. Carson is athletic (46-inch vertical leap) and he’s probably the fastest player in the Pac-12 (see video above).
Carson’s 40 points are the fifth most in ASU history. Last year he was the Pac-12 co-Freshman of the Year with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. This year, Carson will contend for national honors and he’s one of the top candidates in the Pac-12 MVP race. Before the season, he said this will be his last year at ASU and plans to enter the NBA draft.
Lorenzo Romar on Carson: “The thing that impressed me last year about Jahii is he came in last year with a reputation as a scoring point guard and he’s certainly capable of it, but he does a good job of distributing the ball as well. He’s averaging close to six assists a game and he’s just not coming down and shooting the ball every time it touches his hands – and it’s in his hands the whole game. So he’s really impressive. When you have someone who can score the ball and distribute like he does and is so quick to get in the lane and create havoc, he’s a tough cover.”
— Senior Jordan Bachynski is arguably the most improved player in the Pac-12. The 7-2 center has always been a dominating defensive presence, but he’s become an offensive threat this season. Bachynski, 23, didn’t play his senior year in high school and spent two years (2008-10) away from basketball on a LDS Mission. After four straight years at ASU, he’s averaging a personal-best 12.5 points and he’s getting better in low-post situations.
Still, it’s on the defensive end where Bachynski is most effective. He set the Pac-12 blocks record with 120 last season. He has 244 career blocks. The 248-pound Calgary native has a 7-4 wingspan.
— Arizona State enters Pac-12 play at 11-2 for the second straight year. Last year, they were 9-9 in the Pac-12 and finished tied with Washington for sixth in the conference.
— ASU has eight newcomers including Jermaine Marshall who is immediately eligible after transferring from Penn State. He quickly moved into starting lineup and the 6-4 guard gives ASU a big scoring option in the backcourt to ease the pressure on Carson. Marshall replaced departed senior Chris Colvin who averaged 5.1 points last season. Marshall is second on the team averaging 15.5 points. He was the sixth leading scorer in Big Ten last season. Marshall is a knock-down shooter. He averages 5.8 three-point attempts and shoots 46.1 percent behind the arc.
— Former Kentridge High standout Shaquille McKissic has found a role as a do-everything player. He replaced all-conference defender Carrick Felix, who was a second-round NBA draft pick last year.
— For some odd reason, sharp-shooter Jonathan Gilling is shooting 33.3 percent (4 of 12) on free throws. He’s made 27 of 59 (45.8 percent) on three-pointers. The junior forward is averaging 15.5 points versus Washington in four games. He’s 20-of-39 (.512) from the field and 14-of-30 (.520) from the three-point stripe. Two of his top three scoring games (22 and 20 points) are against the Huskies.
— ASU averages 79.3 points which is the most in the eight-year Sendek era. In the past he’s used a halfcourt oriented offense, but the speedy Carson forced him revamp the offense. It also helps to have two assistants (Eric Musselman and Larry Greer) with NBA experience. ASU has used the 3-12-24 principle to speed things up. The Sun Devil try to get the ball across half court in three seconds. They want to get a good shot in 12 seconds. And they use a 24-second shot clock in practice. ASU averages 15.9 seconds per possession, which ranks 34th in the nation, according to statistician Ken Pomeroy.
— With four starters slated to leave, this feels like a make-or-break season for Arizona State, which hasn’t been to NCAA tournament since 2009. ASU returns three starters (Carson, Bachynski and Gilling) from a team that advanced to the second round of the NIT last year.
— ASU’s bench remains something of a mystery. Michigan State transfer Brandan Kearney, a junior forward, and freshman guard Egor Koulechov appear to be the most dependable reserves.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
C – Jordan Bachynski, 7-2, 250, Sr., 12.5 ppg., 9.8 rpg., 4.8 bpg.
F – Jonathan Gilling, 6-7, 219, Jr., 7.5, 3.9, 3.5 apg.
G – Shaquielle McKissic, 6-5, 200, Sr., 7.5, 4.6, 2.3 apg.
G – Jermaine Marshall, 6-4, 215, Sr., 15.5, 2.6, 1.1 apg.
G – Jahii Carson, 5-10, 180, So., 19.3, 3.9, 5.4 apg.
FIVE QUESTIONS …
with Arizona Republic beat writer Doug Haller
1. (Two-part question) With four starters set to leave after the season, it feels like a make-or-break season for Arizona State. Are the Sun Devils legitimate Pac-12 title contenders or pretenders. Seems like the pressure to succeed this year could derail a team that hasn’t experienced a lot of success recently
In some ways, it is make or break. In seasons past, ASU hasn’t had enough talent to get to the NCAA Tournament. But Carrick Felix left last season and turned into an NBA second-round draft pick. This season, Jahii Carson is projected as a first rounder and center Jordan Bachynski may play his way into the second round. Add in Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall, a high-level scorer, and the Sun Devils have enough pieces. Can they contend in the Pac-12? That might be difficult. Right now, I see them somewhere in that 4-to-6 range.
2. Is Jahii Carson too unselfish. He could probably score 20 points every game, but looks like he’s being more of a playmaker. Is that good for ASU?
Carson probably could average 25 a game if he wanted. He rarely has trouble getting to the basket and you could count the number of bad shots he’s taken on one hand. He’s really good at picking his spots. Against UNLV, he knew he had to take over, and he did, scoring 40. Against Texas Tech, he was content moving the ball, and he finished with 13 assists. Bottom line: He can’t do it by himself. To contend in the Pac-12 and to reach the NCAA Tournament, ASU needs multiple scorers. Carson realizes as much.
3. Bigger impact so far, Jermaine Marshall or Shaquielle McKissic?
Marshall, simply because he makes it difficult for teams to help on Carson. Carson gets in the lane, defenses collapse and Marshall hits a 3. Get used to that. It’ll happen a lot this Pac-12 season. But McKissic will be a factor. He has Carrick Felix qualities with his athletic ability, defensive potential and ability to get to the foul line. He got off to a slow start but has made significant improvement the past month. The Pac-12, however, is a different beast. It will be interesting to see what kind of player he’ll be in February and March.
4. Washington is downplaying its seven-game winning streak over ASU, but are the Sun Devils talking about it?
Herb Sendek is a “live-in-the-moment” kind of guy, so I doubt there’s been too much conversation about it.
5. Who wins Thursday? And why? (Another two-part question)
ASU. Lorenzo Romar has had slow-starting teams before, but I have yet to see anything from this bunch — especially defensively — that suggests they’ll be a factor in this season’s Pac-12.