Arizona State starts the 2012-13 season as early as ever with their Nov. 10 tipoff against Central Arkansas.
With five returning lettermen including four starters, such as junior Jordan Bachynski and sophomore Jonathan Gilling, the Sun Devils are hoping for a fast start against the Southland Conference team that only managed eight wins last year, three of them in conference.
This will also mark the debut of three redshirt players that practiced last year with the Sun Devils but were not allowed to play. Freshman phenom Jahii Carson is the biggest thing to happen to ASU basketball since James Harden, so this game will be huge for him and the program. Also making their first starts are transfer students Evan Gordon and Bo Barnes.
Let's take a look at the game by the numbers.
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Tempe, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m. MT
Watch: Pac-12 Networks
Listen: 860-AM in the metro Phoenix area or ASU All Access on the web.
Seniors Carrick Felix, Chris Colvin and Ruslan Pateev return for their final season and look to make it a memorable one. Felix averaged 5.6 more points per game when the Sun Devils won. The Sun Devils average loss was by 5.3 points per game. If Felix can bring his A-game, they will win the close games.
Colvin finished the year with seven points per game and four rebounds per game but turned it up a notch and finished the season with 8.7 points per game and five assists per game over the last 15 games.
Pateev averaged three points per game, three rebounds per game and has 67 blocks in 79 games entering his final year. The 7'0", 250-pound center has to step up and help out fellow big man, Jordan Bachynski.
Bachynski and Colvin must have spent a lot of time together, as Bachynski finished the year with an average of six points per game and four rebounds per game. The final stretch of 13 saw Bachynski's number skyrocket to 10.1 points per game as well as shooting .643 from the field.
As a freshman last year, Jonathan Gilling starred and had he played more than 18 games, he would have been a shoo-in for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. He finished second in minutes per game (31.9) and three-point percentage (.416) while finishing fifth in points per game (9.2). Compared to other ASU freshmen, Gilling finished seventh all-time for minutes played and fifth for three-pointers made with 55.
Redshirt sensation Jahii Carson set and broke his high school records in several categories in his junior and senior years and looks to do the same at Arizona State. Carson, the best in-state recruit in decades will be a spark plug to ignite an otherwise slower-than-usual team.
Coach Herb Sendek had this to say about about Jahii Carson:
Jahii is an electrifying player. He's blessed with amazing athletic talent. But for me, the joy in practice with Jahii is his eagerness to learn. And he has been a complete and total team guy. So that's the joy that I get from working with Jahii every day. He's very unselfish and he's very eager to learn. And that's an awesome combination to have in a young player.
What They're Saying:
Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic had this to say about the upcoming season:
The Sun Devils need an adrenaline boost, and perhaps no freshman in recent school history is more qualified to do so than the 5-foot-10 Carson, whose dunking highlight videos have captured more than 2.5 million hits on YouTube.
He continued about Carson staying at home:
In Carson, Sendek has a point guard who turned down scholarship offers from schools such as Arizona, Memphis, Marquette, UCLA and Washington to attend a school that lacks basketball tradition.
Sendek has also been quick to remind those in the arena and media that may be putting unrealistic expectations on Carson's young shoulders stating that "he will be wearing an ASU uniform this season, not a costume with an "S" on the chest."
"It's been great in terms of attention and hype for our team and program," Sendek said of the Carson exposure. "I think our fanbase is excited and look forward to seeing him, but that has to be balanced with some level of reality as well because you almost feel these expectations growing to mythological proportions, and that's not fair to him."
Meanwhile, Ryan Bafaloukous from House of Sparky had this to say about the backcourt of Carson and Gordon:
How Will Jahii Carson do in his Freshman Year?
Gordon is an X-factor for the Sun Devils this season. He put up solid numbers and proved he could hit the outside shot, but that was at the mid-major level. Gordon will have to prove he can score against the defenders of the Pac-12.
Gordon's game will be helped by Carson, who should be able to find Gordon open on the perimeter when he drives to the basket. This is on display during the Maroon and Gold scrimmage, when Gordon had 14 points including several long threes.
The Sun Devils were a pretty hard team to watch last year with an abnormally high number of turnovers, allowing them to only win 10 games last year, six of them in conference. They did finish the regular season with two victories, including an 87-80 win over their in-state rival, the Arizona Wildcats.
I believe with the new up-tempo game plan and injection of new life, the Sun Devils win this game 85-68.
Don't forget to follow me on twitter.