No. 3 ASU men's basketball embracive of underdog role, set to face No. 17 Arizona

Shannon Evans II and ASU are once again the underdog but are ready to leave an imprint on college basketball

It could be argued that senior guard Shannon Evans II resembles what it means to be an underdog. He had only one division I scholarship offer coming out of high school, his No. 3 Sun Devils had a three percent chance to beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month and the ASU backcourt garners little media attention despite leading its team to a 12-0 start for the first time in program history.

But what happens when ability is doubted? Athletes enter a new realm of motivation, and they add even more fuel to the fire.  

Come Saturday when ASU faces No. 17 Arizona at the McKale Center, a game they are predicted to lose, Evans II said he will continue to follow head coach Bobby Hurley’s game plan – shoot the same jumpers and be the same leader. 

“I was watching ESPN last night and I saw a little thing popped up and it said, ‘top point guards in the country’ and it had point guards from everywhere,” Evans said. “ ... Me and Tra [Holder] were nowhere to be found. I was just like, ‘Wow, we are ranked No. 3, and we aren’t even on this list,' so you see things like that and it gives you that extra chip on your shoulder.” 

Evans II said ASU has yet to receive the respect they deserve nationally, with part of it being reputation and another being that ASU has not been known as a basketball school.

The motivation for Evans II is driven by one factor: doubt. 

That is how Evans II has thrived his entire life and how the No. 3 Sun Devils continue proving writers, analyst and even their own fan base wrong this season.

“I have been an underdog my whole life, so has Tra [Holder], so has Kodi [Justice] so that’s nothing new,” Evans II said. “So, it’s easy going out here and playing every game like it’s your last and giving it your all and living with the results.”

ASU’s Tra Holder has been consistent and a pivotal component to the team’s success this year. He's fifth in scoring within power-five conferences and leads the team in scoring averaging 21.3 points per game. 

The narrative will remain the same for the Sun Devils when they face rival Arizona. Although the Wildcats (10-3) struggled in November, they have won seven straight and will benefit from home court advantage, where they are 74-2 the previous five seasons. 

The Sun Devils have exquisite wins this season over Kansas State, Xavier and Kansas – all away from home. Arizona, nevertheless, has something the other teams did not – a potential top-three draft pick in this year’s NBA draft; forward Deandre Ayton

“Coaches have nightmares thinking about a guy like [Deandre] Ayton and his skill set and how valuable he is to their team,” Hurley said. “So, we’ve watched a lot of film on him and we will do the best job we can.” 

This is the first time these two teams have faced off as ranked teams since the 1994-95 season. ASU’s success has taken the Valley by storm, only adding hype to an already anticipated matchup.  

"Just around the Valley right now you hear so many fans talking about it because it’s one of the biggest games so far this year and maybe one of the biggest games in this rivalry,” senior guard Kodi Justice said during a press conference Thursday. “You definitely hear the buzz, it’s been a lot louder lately.”

The Sun Devils will have their back against the wall once again, as writers and analysts believe Arizona will hand ASU its first loss of the season.

That is just what Hurley and No. 3 ASU are expecting and are prepared for come Saturday. 

Game Information

When: Dec. 30th, at 7 p.m. MST

Where: McKale Center in Tucson, AZ

Watch: Pac-12 Network


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

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