ASU men's basketball remains hungry despite growing NCAA Tournament chances
If the men’s basketball regular season ended right now, ASU would most likely be in the NCAA Tournament.
That’s how crucial the Sun Devils’ 69-66 win over UA was Friday. This week, every major bracketologist listed ASU as at least a No. 9 seed and no longer consider the Sun Devils as a team on the bubble.
But ASU coach Herb Sendek knows sports don’t work that way. He said Tuesday the team isn’t in a position to be comfortable with a full third of a season left to go.
Four of the Sun Devils’ last six games of the regular season are on the road. After the Rocky Mountain trip at Colorado and Utah, ASU hosts California and Stanford next week before closing the regular season at Oregon and Oregon State.
ASU’s spot in the tournament is far from guaranteed.
“You have to focus,” Sendek said. “In college basketball, the games sometimes are spaced very close, and it requires a real mental checkup, so that you can be ready. It’s not just the mental, it’s the emotional drain that it’s so consuming to do something like that.
"You have to make sure that the tank is filled back from an emotional and a mental standpoint to do the same thing again and again multiple times in a same week.”
Make no mistake, the team is excited about being in a favorable position to make it to the NCAA Tournament, but senior guard Jermaine Marshall said the team had a meeting days after the UA game talking about staying focused and reaffirming its goals for the season.
“We just focus on trying to win as many games as possible,” Marshall said. “That’s the best thing you can do. We control our own destiny, and that’s the best thing about it. We’re just going to keep fighting and keep crawling.”
None of the players said they’ve been doing the math on how many wins it would take to keep their chances safe. They would like to keep it that way as the team sticks to its usual approach of playing one game at a time.
“We don’t know specifically how many wins we need or how many teams we have to beat, but we just know if we defend our home court, we have a chance of getting a berth in there,” redshirt sophomore point guard Jahii Carson said.
Marshall gets Pac-12 Player of the Week honors
ASU only played one game (and a half) last week, but that was enough time for Marshall to be named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday.
Marshall became the third Sun Devil to earn the honor this season after scoring 29 points and making several clutch baskets against UA. Senior center Jordan Bachynski won Pac-12 Player of the Week in the previous weekend and Carson was honored when he scored 40 points against UNLV on Nov. 19.
While it’s a nice title, Marshall was modest about receiving it and remained focused toward the rest of the season.
“It’s not something I was looking for,” Marshall said. “I was just happy we got the win. It’s time to really move on.”
Sendek dishes on Pac-12 statement regarding Carson’s dunk
One of the controversies from Friday’s game that still raised discussion over the weekend was Carson’s dunk with 0.7 seconds left in double overtime.
After the dunk, Carson hung on the rim for an extended period of time before redshirt junior guard Bo Barnes pulled him down. Although junior forward Jonathan Gilling was under Carson as he dunked, many viewers believed the referees should’ve given Carson a technical foul for excessively hanging on the rim.
ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reported Monday that Pac-12 officials acknowledged there should have been a technical foul assessed on Carson. The conference also released a statement saying the referees were right to not have called a technical foul on ASU when the fans rushed the court with 0.7 seconds left.
When asked about the Pac-12’s assessment, Sendek agreed with the statement, yet dismissed the significance of the call.
“There are errors made in every game,” Sendek said. “That wasn’t the only error made in that game. I understand that, and they’re right — he easily could’ve been called a technical. That’s a discretionary call by officials.
"Obviously, it would have been more prudent to run the clock out rather than take the shot, but once again, that happened in what seemed like a nanosecond.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Josh_Nacion