ASU men’s basketball tourney hopes look encouraging after Bay Area trip

Winning only one of two games probably wasn’t the ASU men’s basketball team’s main goal for the Bay Area trip this weekend, but it has a lot to take away from it.

Besides ASU and No. 1 UA, traveling to California and Stanford is arguably the toughest road trip to make in the Pac-12, as the two teams have a combined conference record of 11-7.

Before ASU played Stanford on Saturday, the Cardinal took UA to the wire on Thursday before the Wildcats escaped with a 60-57 win. After ASU handed California its first home loss of the season on Wednesday, the Golden Bears came back out and upset UA, 60-58, to give the Wildcats their first loss of the entire season.

 
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It’s clearly not a cakewalk, but ASU did pretty well, especially considering how much its win over California will significantly help toward the Sun Devils’ NCAA Tournament chances.

With the exception of several players getting in foul trouble early, the Sun Devils looked flawless against the Golden Bears but blew a 16-point lead and nearly lost. ASU found itself on the other end of a similar scenario against Stanford, as the Sun Devils were down by 12 in the second half before they rallied back and got to as close as three points down.

Sophomore center Eric Jacobsen and redshirt junior guard Bo Barnes continued to play well, but they strangely didn’t play much in the second half in both games.

The biggest thing to take away from this road trip is that ASU is completely capable of stealing a big road game and should hang with the Pac-12’s elite teams. The Sun Devils are currently tied with Stanford and Colorado for the fourth spot in the conference standings with a 5-4 record, and most people expect there will be five or six Pac-12 teams making the NCAA Tournament. As everyone talks throughout the entire season how the Sun Devils are on the bubble, ASU is in a good position to make the cut at the moment.

Marshall is back

After Jermaine Marshall’s groin injury sidelined him in the UA game back on Jan. 16 and limited him against Utah and Colorado last weekend, the senior guard appears to be completely healthy.

Good timing, too — the Sun Devils needed him to contribute.

Marshall had 22 points against California and hit a game saving 3-pointer from the right wing with 17 seconds left to force the game into overtime. Against Stanford, he had another 22-point performance and hit another 3-pointer just a few feet off from his shot against Cal that brought ASU within three points with a minute left.

Most of Marshall’s production came from the 3-point line, as he went 9-of-13 from the perimeter on the Bay Area trip. Still, Marshall was still able to get to the rim and times and looked a lot better moving laterally.

ASU did just fine compensating for Marshall last weekend when he dealt with his groin injury, but the Sun Devils can’t do that forever. Sometimes, the team will find itself in need of points, and that’s where Marshall is needed the most.

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion