Hot on the heels of one of the biggest victories in Arizona State basketball history over the No. 2-ranked in-state rival Arizona Wildcats, the Sun Devils (19-8, 8-6 Pac-12) went on the road and fell flat—hard.
Traveling to the newer basketball arenas in the Pac-12 and escaping with a victory at Colorado and Utah is not easy, just ask the aforementioned Wildcats, who needed overtime to escape the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City unscathed.
When Arizona State arrived at the Coors Event Center in Boulder, the Buffaloes were fresh off a road victory over USC and had won four of their last five games including a thrilling overtime win over Utah. The Sun Devils had only lost one game in the previous month, including two overtime games and the epic victory over Arizona.
The Sun Devils were embarrassed in Boulder, shooting a meager 31.5 percent from the floor and 28 percent from beyond the arc. Arizona State was out-rebounded by the largest margin all season, 48-27, including a 15-5 advantage on the offensive glass. Five offensive rebounds—by the entire team—in 40 minutes.
Jermaine Marshall, who had been clutch in the past three overtime victories over Cal, Oregon State and Arizona, went ice cold. Marshall shot 3-of-13, including 1-of-8 from three-point territory, in Boulder and 3-of-10 from the field, 1-of-7 from three, in Salt Lake City.
Jordan Bachynski, the Pac-12 all-time leader in blocks, who leads all Division I players averaging 4.4 per game, had one block against Colorado and three at Utah. Bachynski nearly averages a double-double on the season with 8.9 rebounds and 11.7 points per game. In the past two games, he averaged 4.5 points and rebounds per game.
Jahii Carson, the most NBA-ready player on the team, was like Jekyll and Hyde on the roadie. Carson nearly missed a double-double in Boulder, netting 18 points and seven rebounds, but he was nowhere to be found in Salt Lake City, with eight points and one rebound.
The most consistent player of the Rocky Mountain trip was senior forward Shaquielle McKissic, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game, a sizable improvement from the 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds he averaged before leaving on the road trip.
The Sun Devils played horribly on the road trip and head coach Herb Sendek would be the first to admit it.
"We played horrible basketball," Sendek told Doug Haller of azcentral.com. "I have no explanation. You’d have to ask them. We didn’t make plays. We didn’t defend. Couldn’t make shots, couldn’t make free throws. It’s really inexplicable and quite a dismal performance."
With all the work that Sendek has done to extinguish his hot seat over the past two seasons, will this horrible road trip re-ignite the flame? Arizona Republic sports columnist Paola Boivin tweeted this assurance for Sendek:
... ASU AD Ray Anderson also reiterated this morning his support for basketball coach Herb Sendek, even after team's tough loss.— Paola Boivin (@PaolaBoivin) February 24, 2014
It's not all doom and gloom for Sendek and the Sun Devils as they still maintain a quality RPI of 32 and are 3-3 against teams with an RPI of 50 or better; their College Basketball Power Index (BPI) is also respectable at No. 38, which places them as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
America's foremost bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, has the Sun Devils as a No. 9 seed playing against Virginia Commonwealth in the South bracket in Orlando. Regardless of the seeding, ASU Basketball had this to say on Twitter Monday afternoon after the new bracketology prediction was announced:
The Sun Devils are 14-1 at home this year and 30-5 in the past two seasons, including victories over two ranked teams in Arizona and Marquette. This week, Arizona State welcomes two teams with better conference records in Stanford and California, so victories over the Northern California schools will dramatically improve their seeding in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona State finishes on the road again this season against a pair of struggling Oregon teams. Regardless of the competition, if the Devils repeat this past road trip in Oregon, everything could all be for naught.
David A. Bowers is the featured columnist for Arizona State Athletics. Follow him on Twitter— @asudave.