Arizona State a surprisingly scary team
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
Team of the week: Arizona State
The Sun Devils were picked to finish 11th out of 12 teams in the Pac-12 in large part to a number of key transfers, but recent wins against UCLA and Southern California proved that Herb Sendek’s young team belongs in the NCAA tournament. Arizona State currently owns a 16-4 record, only losing to three top-25 teams and a Big East school. Most bracketologists have predicted four Pac-12 bids, but ASU is pushing the NCAA committee’s invitation envelope to five. Despite a 4-4 start, Colorado has a polished non-conference rèsumè and RPI of 21, while Oregon, Arizona and UCLA are likely in.
This team needs wins against the Ducks or Wildcats to bolster an already-impressive rèsumè. The player to know on this team is 5-10 point guard Jahii Carson, a freshman who was academically ineligible last season. Carson is the team’s spark plug, ball-hawking on defense and disrupting opponents offensively, averaging more than 17 points and 5 assists. This team would fare well against just about any mid-level Big Ten team, mainly Wisconsin or Minnesota, basically teams that play at a slower tempo than the one Carson dictates.
Rèsumè worth dissecting: Virginia
The Cavaliers were practically on the NIT bubble before Tuesday night, but a 58-55 upset of N.C. State gives Virginia a 15-5 overall record and 5-2 ACC stance. Currently, they’re second in the ACC ahead of Duke. If we’re going off those aforementioned accomplishments alone, this is a tournament team, right? Let’s not forget Virginia’s 113 RPI (yikes) that’s surely thanks to disastrous non-conference losses to George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion. (Maybe the Cavs should stop playing CAA teams). Old Dominion is 2-17. Look, Wake Forest even beat N.C. State. Any band can land a hit single. Still, this could easily be the team that made the NCAAs and doesn’t belong. Think how infuriating that’d be to used-to-always-be-on-the-bubble Virginia Tech.
Mid-Major Top 10:
Question of the week: How many teams from the Mountain West Conference make the NCAA tournament?
New Mexico coach Steve Alford ranted last week about the disrespect he felt the conference was … [For more on Bracket Briefing: Arizona State a surprisingly scary team, click here.]