Expectations are shifted during the season in accordance to one simple variable: wins.
The ASU men’s basketball team was picked to finish 11th in the Pac-12 preseason poll. The team’s early season success dramatically casted it in a different light. But it couldn’t sustain its early success late in the season, dropping five of its last six games.
This story has been told before about another ASU sports team.
The parallels between the football and men’s basketball seasons are quite similar. Both surpassed early expectations but couldn’t maintain it.
The football team started 5-1 before it dropped four straight games. It fell short of its goal of reaching the Pac-12 Championship on a last-second field goal to UCLA.
In what would’ve been a huge RPI boosting win, the men’s basketball charged back at UCLA on February 27 to send the game into overtime. It scored just two buckets in the extra period though and lost to the Bruins 79-74.
The loss to the Bruins was a missed opportunity to dramatically increase ASU’s chances of an NCAA Tournament bid.
They followed that loss with a one-point loss to USC, which nearly clinched its bid into the NIT baring a magical run in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Both teams played UCLA in the second game in what became for both teams a four-game losing streak.
What was left at the end of the season for the football team was an 8-5 season, including wins over UA then Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
It was deemed a successful season given preseason expectations of a first-year coach, a new quarterback, a new system and depth issues. Although the team could’ve achieved more and fell short, the Sun Devils finished the football season strong.
The same opportunity presents itself for the basketball team.
ASU started the year 14-2 and 3-0 in conference play.
Its nonconference scheduled ranked 266th in the country, which was a big reason for the Sun Devils’ hot start.
The Sun Devils gained respect on Jan. 6 when they defeated Colorado 65-56 at Wells Fargo Arena. They seemed to be a serious contender not only for an NCAA bid but also for the Pac-12 title after they defeated UCLA on Jan. 26.
They were 16-4 at one point before the victories started to come at a premium.
Redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson and senior wing Carrick Felix thrived. But it was a mystery what ASU would get from the rest of the team every night.
Junior center Jordan Bachynski broke the Pac-12 record for blocks in a single season. There were also times he sat on the bench for extended period in favor of senior center Ruslan Pateev and freshman forward Eric Jacobsen.
Sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling, junior guard Eric Gordon and senior guard Chris Colvin seemed to be a mixed bag. They never had it going at the same time, and their inconsistent play hurt the Sun Devils down the stretch.
The NCAA dream was crushed once again by UCLA 80-75 in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Sun Devils finished with 21 wins, a 9-9 Pac-12 record and just a NIT bid to show for a season where it surpassed expectations.
It looks to be enough for Sendek to remain as the head coach for the basketball team.
While Felix will be gone next season in what looks like as a potential NBA second round pick, Carson’s future remains up in the air.
While it would be a better decision for the point guard to remain in school for another season, he lived up to and even exceeded the hype.
He dominated in the Pac-12 Tournament. There’s no other way to describe it.
Carson and the Sun Devils will surprisingly join some talented teams this year in the NIT given the parody of college basketball. The Sun Devils have a shot to finish the season strong and carry the momentum in the offseason with a good outing in the NIT.
ASU fans have seen what a good finish to the season can do for next year’s expectations.
Just look at the football team.
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