Arizona State Basketball: Is It Time to Jump on the Sun Devil Bandwagon Yet?
The Arizona State Basketball team (13-2, 2-0 Pac-12) is off to one of its best starts since moving to the Pac-10 prior to the 1978 season.
In 35 years, this is only the fourth time that the Sun Devils have started with a conference record of at least 2-0 and only the second time in the past 15 years.
So, who is ready to jump on the bandwagon? There are plenty of seats available.
I reported early in the year that Sun Devil head coach Herb Sendek was out to prove his critics and sportswriters across the country wrong in the 2012-13 season, and things are looking good—for now.
The Road Trip
Arizona State hits the road for the first road trip of the season visiting the Oregon schools starting in Corvallis. The game against the Beavers is set for an 8:30 p.m. PT tipoff on Thursday night. They meet the Ducks at 6 p.m. PT on Sunday.
Both games will be televised on the Pac-12 Network, so if you have DirecTV, you are out of luck.
Coach Sendek has fared well against the Oregon schools in his six years as Arizona State head coach, posting a 8-3 record against Oregon St. including a 3-2 record in Corvallis. The Sun Devils closed Oregon's McArthur Court on Jan.1, 2011 and will be playing for the first time at Matt Court on Sunday.
Coach Sendek is 7-5 against the Ducks, including a 3-2 record in Eugene.
If the Devils return to Tempe with a 4-0 Conference record, it will be the second-best start in 35 years. It will also set the stage for their biggest game of the season—hosting in-state rival, the AP No. 4 Arizona Wildcats.
Senior Carrick Felix had another banner week, earning his second Pac-12 Player of the Week nod. He has been on fire recently, scoring in double figures in his past 14 games. He has also tallied four career double-doubles—all this season.
He leads the team in rebounds and is the only player in the Pac-12 that is in the top 10 in scoring (15.1 ppg), rebounds (7.9 rpg) and steals (1.73 spg.) The Sun Devils are the No. 3 team in the country in blocks with eight per game.
Felix lends a hand, literally, by adding an average of 1.53 per game.
Leading the charge for blocks is junior Jordan Bachynski. The nation's No. 3 blocker averages an insane 4.6 blocks per game. Bachynski also leads the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage with 65.6 percent, which places him at No. 13 in the country.
Felix and Bachynski have made marked improvements since the 2011-12 season, due in large part to the team's freshman phenom point guard, Jahii Carson.
Carson has been the court general that has led the Devils to a high-octane performance that looks good on Arizona State. He is the team's leading scorer and places No. 5 in the Pac-12 with 16.7 points per game. His 81 total assists and 5.4 per game also lead the team and is second best in the conference.
The season is still young and the Sun Devils' RPI is a paltry 52 with a strength of schedule rank of 137, so it is a little too early to get excited about the Devils. They have only played one true road game this year in front of a hostile crowd and defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders 77-62.
They are 1-1 on a neutral court and 11-1 at home, losing to DePaul in an embarrassing showing, 78-61.
Oregon State lost their conference opener on Sunday to Oregon but only lost by six to a tough 12-1 Kansas team. The Ducks would be 13-1 if not for a heart-breaking triple-overtime loss in El Paso to UTEP.
If, and that's a strong if, the Devils can win these two games on the road, the national media will see what I have known all along—this is not the same team that was picked to finish in the bottom third of the Pac-12 Conference.
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