NCAA countdown: No. 45 Arizona State
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: It starts for Arizona State with speedy point guard Jahii Carson, one of the nation’s most electric players who seemed to slip under the national radar much of last season as a freshman.
Coach Herb Sendek isn’t shy in tabbing Carson the “most talented point guard” in the country, and the 5-10 floor general’s return puts ASU in the mix to make the NCAA tournament, a feat that eluded the Sun Devils in 2012-13 after playing their way off the bubble — losing six of their last eight games.
Although Carson returns along with two starters, Sendek is tasked with remolding a team made up of eight newcomers. Arizona State will have to develop chemistry early on, as the Pac-12 Conference will be as challenging as ever.
Coach’s Corner: “I think we’re an NCAA tournament team. This year we have a really good group of character-driven kids and a player (Carson) who has a phenomenal ability to really make guys better.”
2012-13 in review: 22-13 overall (9-9 Pac-12), lost in second round of NIT.
Path to the Dance: The Sun Devils were on the NCAA tournament bubble last season before fading, and the forecast looks similar for this season. Winning the Pac-12 regular season and tournament means going through Arizona, Stanford and Colorado — all teams deep with more weapons than ASU — so an at-large bid will take a strong non-conference schedule and a better-than-.500 finish in league play this season.
Conference outlook: The Pac-12 Conference appears poised for a resurgence after a season in which five teams made the NCAA tournament, and three additional teams reached the NIT. Though Arizona is the favorite, the league race will be intriguing with five NCAA contenders behind the Wildcats: Stanford, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State.
Tournament projection: No. 11 seed.
Star watch: Carson averaged 18.5 points, 5.1 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 37.2 minutes a game last season. Yet his numbers only tell one side of the story. Carson’s presence makes his teammates better offensively, his speed makes the Sun Devils an up-tempo team, and his penetration in the … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 45 Arizona State, click here.]