Is Arizona State basketball a sleeper in the Pac-12? According to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, the Sun Devils very much are, led by the play of star point guard Jahii Carson.
In what looks to be a potential breakout year for the Pac-12, Arizona State seems ready to take a seat at the table. Picked seventh in the conference’s preseason poll (and anywhere from third to eighth among CBSSports.com’s experts), the Sun Devils look like a legitimate sleeper flying under-the-radar.
Rothstein said that Carson, center Jordan Bachynski and forward Jonathan Gilling will give ASU a strong veteran presence for ASU, while the addition of guard Jermaine Marshall is an upgrade over transferred Evan Gordon.
The 6-4 gunner made 59 three-point shots last season for the Nittany Lions and will be eligible to play immediately after graduating in August. Marshall averaged 15.3 points per game last year in State College and his ability to extend defenses should complement Carson’s penetration ability.
Rothstein also agreed with the thought that Carson will benefit greatly from the new defensive rules that limit contact on the perimeter. Additionally, he said head coach Herb Sendeck has adjusted the team’s style of play to fit their point guard.
Thanks to Carson’s ability to get out in transition, Sendek has undergone a bit of a career transformation. Known as a slow and methodical coach during his time at NC State as well as his early years in Tempe, Sendek has adapted to his personnel and emphasized a more high octane approach.
An increased commitment to conditioning has Arizona State ready to accelerate the pace each time it takes the floor. The Sun Devils are currently working out twice per day as a team, doing skill work in the morning followed by practice later in the day.
Last year, the Sun Devils finished 22-13 and lost in the second round of the NIT. Carson has already said this will be his last year before entering the NBA, and according to Rothstein, his only focus right now is for ASU to make the NCAA Tournament this season.