What you need to know about ASU men's basketball before tipoff

An improved backcourt looks to boost ASU men's basketball this upcoming season

In 2015, it was head coach Bobby Hurley’s first season and expectations were low. In 2016, the prominent talking point was the team's lack of size. Now in 2017, the ASU men’s basketball team is well-rounded with a combination of experience in its backcourt and size in its frontcourt. 

The former Duke Blue Devil has managed to bring in three-straight four-star recruiting classes, though, it has not translated to the team’s success as he has posted a 30-35 record as ASU’s head coach. 

Last season, the roster was altered due to the transfers of top-recruit guard Sam Cunliffe and four-star big man Jethro Tshisumpa, leaving Hurley with a six-man rotation and absence of size. They are, however, returning three starters from last year’s team that was third in the Pac-12 in scoring (55th in the nation). 

ASU will be feeling the pressure to be a Pac-12 contender this upcoming season. With the season approaching, here is everything you need to know about ASU men's basketball. 

An improved frontcourt

Last season, the Sun Devils ranked 12th in scoring defense (81.7), 12th in rebounding margin (-7.1) and 10th in blocked shots (3.2) in the Pac-12. To Hurley’s credit, he will be adding five players listed as 6-feet-7-inches or taller. 

Look for ASU to improve in all three areas this season.

Top players returning for coach Hurley

ASU will be led by its returning backcourt of senior guards Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II. Holder averaged 16.2 points per game last season and was eighth in the Pac-12, adding game averages of 3.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Evans was 13th in scoring (Pac-12), posting an average of 15.0 point per game and was fifth in assists with 4.4 a game. They were both ranked in the top four in minutes played last season and will carry the same workload this upcoming season. 

Beyond the arc

ASU's third starting returner is senior guard Kodi Justice, who shot 41.7 percent from three-point range last season — sixth in the Pac-12. He averaged 9.2 points per game and started 26 games last season after Cunliffe’s departure from the program. The Sun Devils were fourth in the Pac-12 in three-point percentage (37 percent) and first in three pointers made (9.9). 

An opportunity to prove themselves

Hurley continued his method of setting up a tough non-conference schedule for his team, and this year is no different. 

ASU will face Kansas State (2017 NCAA Tournament team) at the Continental Tire Invitation, and has the opportunity to play against at least one other 2017 NCAA Tournament team in Xavier. All three teams will participate in the tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with George Washington University.

The Sun Devils also have an intriguing matchup at No. 5 Kansas (2017 NCAA tournament team) on Dec. 10, which will be televised on ESPN. Then a week later, ASU plays host to Vanderbilt at Wells Fargo Arena on Dec. 17, making it the second Southeastern Conference (SEC) opponent they host in the past 23 years. 

Vanderbilt reached the SEC Tournament semifinals and made the NCAA Tournament last season. 

Recruitment on the rise

Hurley has brought in his second consecutive four-star recruiting class with the additions of freshman guard Remy Martin and freshman forward Kimani Lawrence. Martin was ranked as a top-80 point guard in the nation coming out of high school, while Lawrence was ranked as a top-60 forward in the nation. 

According to the 247sports rankings, prior to Hurley’s arrival, the Sun Devil coaching staff had not brought in a four-star recruiting class since 2007 – the year they signed former ASU standout James Harden

Protecting the rock

The Sun Devils had no issue protecting the ball last season, as they were first in the Pac-12 in turnover margin (+2.88). With the return of their veteran guards, ASU will look to stay in the top half of the turnover ranking. 

ASU opens up its season at home versus Idaho State on Friday, Nov. 10. 

*Statistics were retrieved from pac-12.com

Reach the reporter at fcorral1@asu.edu or follow @felipecorraljr on Twitter.  

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