5 Things Arizona State Basketball Must Do To Make The 2014 NCAA Tournament
Arizona State Aims For Its First NCAA Tournament Appearance In Four Years
The Arizona State Sun Devils are all but guaranteed their first invite to the NCAA Tournament in four years. Despite struggling on the road in a tough Pac 12 conference, the Sun Devils boast an overall record of 21-9 (including 10-7 in conference play) heading into their final regular season game on Saturday against the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis. Their overall home record of 16-1 this season is their best in nearly 40 years and includes an upset win over the then-No. 2 ranked Arizona Wildcats last month, as well as commanding victories over the Stanford Cardinal and Cal Golden Bears last weekend.
Head coach Herb Sendek, now in his eighth year at the helm in Tempe, attributes the team's success to a myriad of factors. Sophomore sensation Jahii Carson has continued to impress as the conference's fourth leading scorer and enhanced the overall appeal of the school's basketball program. Senior Jordan Bachynski, perhaps the nation's most improved college basketball player this season, set an all-time conference record for blocked shots. Senior transfer Jermaine Marshall has come through multiple times down the stretch in clutch situations. Shaquielle McKissic has overcome tremendous adversity to become a valuable impact player in his final year of playing eligibility. A once dormant bench has sprung to life to put points on the board when needed. Anytime all of these pieces come together, the Sun Devils play like a team that belongs in the Top 25.
The Sun Devils need a strong showing at next week's Pac 12 tournament in Las Vegas to not only secure their invite to the big dance, but to earn the best possible seeding as well. Here are five things that need to happen to ensure the Sun Devils aren't snubbed when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Selection Sunday in less than two weeks.
5. Jahii Carson Needs To Score Consistenly
Despite being perhaps the quickest player in the country, Jahii Carson struggles with scoring inconsistency at times, particularly when opposing defenses clog up the lane to prevent him from penetrating for easy baskets. Occasionally, he explodes in the second half after being shut down and rendered a non-factor in the first half. If Carson plays true to form from the opening tip until the final horn, the Sun Devils are unbeatable.
4. Jordan Bachynski Needs To Keep Swatting Away
Jordan Bachynski stands a towering 7-foot-2 and leads the nation with 123 blocked shots. Statistically this season, he is blocking one out of every 14.07 opposing shots. On three separate occasions, including the upset win over Arizona, he blocked an opposing player's potential game-tying or game-winning shot attempt. Bachynski's dangerous shot-blocking abilities will probably come in handy during what's expected to be an extremely difficult and competitive Pac-12 conference tournament next week.
3. Jermaine Marshall Needs To Provide Senior Leadership
Jermaine Marshall remains cool under pressure and can take over a game in clutch situations, especially when opposing defenses forget about him as they focus to much on guarding Jahii Carson. Marshall makes the other team pay dearly when this happens. He's scored over 20 points on 11 separate occasions this season, and perhaps most impressively, he steps up when needed most, averaging 25.3 points in the three games that went into overtime. The Sun Devils won all three.
2. Shaquielle McKissic Needs To Continue Making an Impact
Shaquielle McKissic transferred to Arizona State this season from a community college in the Seattle area. He had a less than impressive start to the season as he acclimated to playing Division 1 college basketball in front of larger crowds. However, McKissic started finding his game in December as the Sun Devils concluded their non-conference schedule, and he has continued improving by leaps and bounds during conference play, shooting over 50 percent from the floor and leading the team in steals. He's averaged 6.3 rebounds over the last ten 10 games, and he's scored in double figures 13 times.
1. Bo Barnes Needs To Provide Extra Depth Off The Bench
Bo Barnes, a junior guard who transferred to Arizona State from the University of Hawaii, has seen more playing time as the season has progressed, and he's earned every minute. Over the past 12 games, he's shot over 44 percent from three-point range and averaged 6.5 points in a reserve role.