ARIZONA STATE BASKETBALL

Arizona State men’s basketball must ‘circle the wagons’ at Colorado, Utah

Feb 7, 2024, 6:22 PM

Bobby Hurley, ASU...

Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts in the second half of a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament against the Arizona Wildcats at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 78-59. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Arizona State men’s basketball looks to get back to winning ways this weekend. The squad heads to Boulder to play Colorado on Thursday followed by a quick turnaround to Salt Lake City to play Utah on Saturday.

Ahead of Arizona State’s crucial road trip, head coach Bobby Hurley urged that the Sun Devils need to play better defense and keep their heads amidst a four-game losing streak that could derail their season.

“It’s hard to gauge your self-confidence after it gets checked like that over the last two weeks,” Hurley said. “Hopefully, we’ve done a few things this week in practice to help with some of the scheme and give some different looks.”

Hurley expressed that his players are capable of playing at a better level. Arizona State defeated both Utah and Colorado earlier this season at home. However, it’s about playing at the same level all the time, or just being consistent.

The Sun Devils have struggled with consistency throughout the season. They started out 4-0 in Pac-12 play but have dropped six out of their last seven games.

Arizona State ranks 136th in the 2024 NET Rankings. The team is the 321st-best three-point shooting team in college, at 29.8% from deep, and has allowed three out of their last four opponents to shoot 50% or above from the field against them.

The Sun Devils will be asked to perform a tough task in getting a win over the Buffaloes away from home. Colorado ranks 30th in the NET Rankings, with a 6-6 record over Quad 1 and 2 teams and a perfect 12-0 record at home this season.

When Colorado played ASU in Tempe on Jan. 6, the Sun Devils won 76-73.

But that feels like an eternity ago, and the Buffaloes were missing freshman Cody Williams. Williams, who has been projected as a top-five pick in the 2024 NBA Draft, is questionable for Thursday.

“He’s a very smooth player,” Hurley said. “He can really shoot the ball, but he can also score on multiple levels. He’s got a great IQ for the game and plays at a really good pace for a freshman.”

Other than Williams, Colorado is led by junior guard K.J. Simpson and senior forward Tristan da Silva. Simpson averages a team-high 19.5 points per game and shoots 50.3% from the field overall. These three players can allow Colorado to cause headaches for opposing defenses.

With Arizona State allowing 72 points per game to opponents, it can get pretty bad pretty quickly.

Hurley said that his team has to be prepared to play a really good team that “checks all the boxes” in all offensive categories such as three-point shooting and rebounding.

Utah, like Colorado, is also undefeated at home this season, with an identical record of 12-0. On Jan. 11, the Utes beat UCLA by 46 points in Salt Lake City. The Utes rank 35th in the NET rankings and possess a 7-6 record against Quad 1 and 2 teams.

They’re led by senior center Branden Carlson, who leads the team in points per game (16.1) and rebounds per game (6.4).

“Both of these teams have a lot to play for right now,” Hurley said. “Both teams have NCAA Tournament resumes right now. So they’re gonna be ready to play. We know we’re gonna have to play extremely well.”

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