The 96-61 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County was the fifth-most points scored under coach Herb Sendek, and the 35-point win was also the largest scoring margin in four years.
The Sun Devils welcomed several new faces, including two in the starting lineup in seniors Shaquielle McKissic and Jermaine Marshall.
Much has been said in the media about sophomore Jahii Carson playing his final season for the Sun Devils, so it is high time for him to shine early and often while the spotlight is brightest.
Here is the breakdown for the Sun Devils upcoming season, ready or not.
The backcourt for Arizona State got a shot in the arm with the transfer of Penn State guard Jermaine Marshall. Coming from a big-time Big Ten program like Penn State and performing as well as he did against ranked teams proves that he is indeed a baller.
Marshall averaged 15.3 points game last year, sixth in the Big Ten, and would have been tied for fifth in the Pac-12 with Jordan Adams from UCLA and Spencer Dinwiddie from Colorado. His stat line from last year also includes shooting 75.9 percent from the free-throw line, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He has recorded nine 20-point games, and they have all came against ranked teams.
Marshall played 27 minutes in the season opener, scoring 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also nailed all six free throws he attempted and led the team with four steals.
The ultra-athletic McKissic will be filling some pretty big shoes at the wing position vacated by Carrick Felix, who is now a member of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. McKissic is a junior college transfer from Edmonds Community College and has one year of eligibility remaining.
McKissic has had to endure several trials and tribulations in his young life, including losing his financial aid, seeing his best friend killed and living out of a friend’s car for a month. He eventually returned to the basketball court last season and played extremely well. It was through his tireless dedication and work ethic that he has earned the starting role for Sendek’s Sun Devils.
McKissic impressed everybody during the Maroon and Gold scrimmage with 33 points and several acrobatic dunks and long-range three-pointers. In 28 minutes against UMBC, he tallied 11 points, six rebounds and a couple of steals and assists.
The spark plug in a small package returns this year with one goal—to lead the Sun Devils back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. The Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year permanently etched his name into the Pac-12 Conference and Arizona State record books alongside former and current NBA stars James Harden, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton.
He notched three 30-point games, which all rank in the top five all-time scoring performances for Sun Devil freshmen. He also tallied 15 20-point games, including four against ranked teams. He led the team in points scored (18.5) and assists per game (5.1), while finishing second in free-throw percentage (.734) and third in total steals (41).
Carson set Sun Devil freshman records for total points (647), field goals attempted (488) and made (231). His 1,033 minutes played and 177 total assists are also freshman Sun Devil records. Look for Carson to leave his mark in several non-freshman categories in the Sun Devil and Pac-12 record books this year.
Friday night’s opener saw Carson score a team-tying 19 points along with five assists and a steal. The sophomore was named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Carson is one of only 15 players named to the list that is awarded to the College Basketball Player of the Year.
One of only three returning seniors, along with three transfer students, with one year of eligibility remaining, Bachynski is the heart and soul of this team. He has grown and matured under the tutelage of Coach Sendek and is on pace for his best season yet.
That is saying a lot as his junior season was phenomenal, being selected to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. He led the team and the Conference in blocks and finished in the Top Five in the nation averaging 3.5 per game.
He also led the team in field-goal percentage hitting 134-of-230 for 58.3 percent, a number that placed him second in the conference. Bachynski averaged just under 10 points per game, while reeling in just under six boards per game.
In 27 minutes on Friday night, Bachynski added three blocks to move his career total to 184, only one shy of the No. 10 spot in the Pac-12 record books. He matched his career high in rebounds, pulling down 15 and notching his fifth career double-double adding 12 points.
Roster and Projected Rotation
The Sun Devils welcomed a slew of new players in the past year with over half of those in uniform who didn’t suit up for Sendek last season. With such an influx of new players, I have listed the roster below direct from the official website.
- Forward—Jonathan Gilling, junior
- Forward—Shaquielle McKissic, senior
- Center—Jordan Bachynski, senior
- Guard—Jahii Carson, sophomore
- Guard—Jermaine Marshall, senior
- Forward—Richie Edwards, graduate
- Forward—Eric Jacobsen, sophomore
- Guard—Chance Murray, freshman
- Guard/Forward—Egor Koulechov, freshman
- Guard—Jarett Upchurch, senior
- Forward—Dave Whitmore, senior
- Forward—Bo Barnes, junior
- Forward—Brandan Kearney, jumior
- Guard—Calaen Robinson, sophomore
- Forward—Sai Tummala, sophomore
The junior forward from Rungsted Kyst, Denmark, does it all for Sendek and the Sun Devils. Last season, he led the Sun Devils in three-point attempts, made and percentage. Those numbers were also tops in the Pac-12, and the 84 three-pointers made ranks fourth in program history.
Being a sharpshooter is not his only redeeming quality; at only 6’7″, Gilling finished second on the team in rebounds, averaging 6.2 per game. On Friday, he picked up where he left off last season, hitting two shots from beyond the arc and grabbing six boards.
The transfer student from Valparaiso sat out last season but practiced all year with the Sun Devils. The 6’7″, 220-pound forward will sub in nicely for Gilling and has the ability to be a big playmaker.
Edwards averaged 9.4 points per game in his final season at Valpo and hit double digits a dozen times, including two 20-point games. He will be a force under the boards pulling down rebounds, and his ability to create turnovers will be a huge plus for the Sun Devils.
Best and Worst Case Scenarios
This is it for the Sun Devils.
With four of the starting five leaving the program after this season, Herb Sendek’s seat couldn’t be any hotter. I believe that this team is also one of the better teams in program history that has seen the likes of James Harden, Eddie House, Ike Diogu and Jeff Pendergraph play here.
A difficult non-conference schedule, including Marquette, Creighton and UNLV, will set the tone for the Sun Devils heading into the new year and an always-difficult conference schedule.
The addition of Jermaine Marshall to the backcourt will be just the thing for Sendek and the Devils moving forward as he fills the role that Evan Gordon failed to do last season. If Friday night’s game is any indication, this team will be as high-octane as Coach Graham’s football squad.
Jahii Carson thrives on competition, be it from an opponent or backcourt mate. Both players finished the game with 19 points, while taking nearly the same number of shots.
Best-case scenario is returning to the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.
Worst-case scenario would be returning to the NIT once again. While there are worse fates than going to the NIT, I strongly doubt that they will play poorly enough to miss out on it.
Prediction: 23-10 (11-7), At-Large Bid, NCAA Tournament Second Round
The Sun Devils already have a win under their belt with the 96-61 shellacking of Maryland-Baltimore County, and they will continue that winning trend until they welcome No. 17 Marquette to Wells Fargo Arena.
The Wooden Legacy Tournament in Southern California on Thanksgiving weekend could also give the Devils fits as they open up against Creighton who handed them their first loss last year, 87-73, in Las Vegas. Their next game would be against two perennial postseason contenders in College of Charleston and San Diego State. Needless to say, the Sun Devils will be thankful when the weekend is over.
They will play tough at home and will get some good wins over Colorado and UCLA but will drop heart-breakers to Arizona and Oregon. Going on the road is never easy, and it’s even tougher in the Pac-12. They will get big wins in tough places like Utah, Colorado and USC and earn a No. 4 seed going into the Pac-12 Tournament.
Tough play will get the Sun Devils into the semifinals and earn them a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they will win their first Tournament game in five years but ultimately lose in the second round.
Jahii Carson and crew will bid adieu to Coach Sendek and Arizona State, and the desert dwellers in Tempe will wonder where the next phenom will come from and how long it will take for him to be known. Will it be the Great Dane Jonathan Gilling, or will the new guys Chance Murray and Egor Koulechov step up?
I can’t say for certain, but one thing I do know is that this season, like this article, begins and ends with Jahii Carson.