Arizona State Basketball: How the Sun Devils Turned Their Program Around

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Arizona State Basketball: How the Sun Devils Turned Their Program Around
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State Basketball (18-5, 7-3 Pac-12) is having one of its best seasons in a long time. At this point last year, the Sun Devils only had three conference wins and six wins overall. The year prior to that at this time saw the Devils in the midst of a nine-game losing streak.

In fact, this is the first time in nearly 20 years that the Sun Devils have seven conference wins at the halfway point of conference play.

Suffice it to say that this year's success has a lot to do with one person—Jahii Carson.

The redshirt freshman has been electric for coach Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils this year. He leads the team in points and assists per game along with most minutes played, most field goals and free throws made.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Carson's outstanding numbers are not only tops for the team, but also across the conference and the nation. His 18.0 points per game is fifth best in the Pac-12 and fourth best in the nation among freshmen.

His 5.2 assists per game is second best in the conference and third best in the nation among freshmen. Carson is shooting 102-of-142 from the free throw line which are both tops for freshmen nationally and second among all players in the Pac-12.

While Jahii Carson has made the most impact on the Sun Devils squad this season, basketball teams cannot win on the strength of one player alone.

A large amount of the credit has to go to the new assistant coaches Eric Musselman and Larry Greer. How else can we explain the drastic turnaround of seasoned veterans Carrick Felix, Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev?

Carrick Felix has been experiencing the best year of his career after graduating with a B.S. in Communications in the spring. He was accepted in to the Masters of Liberal Studies program and began classes over the summer.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week three times and has scored in double digits in 20 of 23 games this season. Also of note are his five double-doubles, he had a grand total of zero in his previous 65 career games.

Felix leads the team in rebounds, steals, field goal and three-point percentage. He is the only player in the conference that is in the top ten in five separate categories.

Jordan Bachynski is also having a renaissance this season and leads the charge when it comes to blocking shots. The Sun Devils as a team are No. 4 in the nation with 6.96 blocks per game and Bachynski is also No. 4 with 4.0 blocks per game—fitting. He also leads the team in offensive rebounds with 58. 

While the nucleus of Carson, Felix and Bachynski have been integral in most games, Thursday night's game saw great performances by Evan Gordon and Ruslan Pateev. The beauty of playing as a team is that when the "stars" are having an off night, it is refreshing to see others step up and carry the load.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pateev made a couple statement dunks in the first half and continued his gritty play in the second half. He finished the game with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He also added eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists. 

Evan Gordon struggled a little out of the gate this season but has been lights out in the last seven games. He is averaging 16 points and two rebounds per game in the stretch and because of this, his playing time has increased, averaging over 38 minutes per game.

As a whole, the team leads the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 46.5 percent, is No. 3 in assists with 14.7 per game, No.4 in scoring with 73.3 points per game and fifth in steals and three-point percentage.

There has been a huge culture change on the football team with new coach Todd Graham and it looks like there is lot to be thankful for with this year's basketball team.

I'm just glad that Jahii's mother, Vanae didn't run off with his signing paperwork.

David is the lead writer for Arizona State Athletics for b/r. Follow him on twitter at @asudave. 

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