ASU men's basketball is in the midst of potentially its best season ever. Whether that happens, though, will depend on how Bobby Hurley's squad finishes. If the start of their season is any indication, we could be watching a historic run for the Sun Devils.
The kind of history the team is aiming for was last seen in 1994-1995. That's the last time the ASU men's basketball team finished a season with single-digit losses. Unsurprisingly, that is also the last time the team went to the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sweet 16.
Since then, ASU has made the NCAA men's basketball tournament five times and has never made it past the second round. That may seem surprising, given that the team featured James Harden from 2007-2009, but the hard truth is that ASU men's basketball has usually been … all right.
They haven't been stellar, they haven't been March Madness stars and, dare I say, they've fallen well short of where that team in Tucson has been in terms of men's basketball quality.
So, the question arises: What makes this team unique? Why, out of all seasons, is the current Sun Devil team rising to the challenge? Why are they playing at the level of teams such as UCLA, USC and UA?
First and foremost, the quality of the individual players and how they play as a team cannot be emphasized enough. ASU has four players averaging over 10 points per game, and they are led in scoring by Desmond Cambridge Jr., whose brother, Devan Cambridge, also scores at a voracious clip.
The Cambridges are complemented by DJ Horne, Frankie Collins and Warren Washington. Washington has been a defensive star in an excellent overall defense for the Sun Devils, averaging two blocks per game.
Perhaps even more crucially, the squad has depth. Austin Nunez offers great scoring off the bench, including 10 points against UCLA last Thursday night.
All of that talent, coached and developed by Hurley, is what has separated this Sun Devil team from past groups that have failed to play at this level.
Yet, some fans may remain skeptical. This is a Sun Devil team, after all, that couldn't get the job done at home against the Bruins, Wildcats and Trojans. Why should we believe that they will be able to beat a high-caliber team in an intense postseason tournament?
That is a fair point. ASU won't play the top Pac-12 teams at home again. When it plays those teams in a hostile or neutral environment, it will be a mental battle to stay in the game.
However, this is a team that has improved since the season started. Early in the season, it would've been hard to convince any ASU fan that the team would be up on UCLA at halftime after losing to a now 6-14 Texas Southern team.
Before ASU faces the Pac-12's best teams again, it has time to sharpen its game. Hurley will need to make adjustments through a stretch of games between now and an end-of-season road trip to UA, UCLA and USC.
If Hurley can get his team focused, it's not hard to imagine ASU winning one or two of those games and making a run in the conference tournament before playing in March. And then? Watch out, because this team has a very good shot to reach the Sweet 16.
ASU men's basketball fans should make their presence known at Desert Financial Arena. They made an impact against UCLA, and they should show up the rest of the season to ensure that the Sun Devils have all the momentum they need going into what could very well be a historic postseason.
This could go down as the team's best season yet. So, don't make excuses. Be there for it.
Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest and Luke Chatham.
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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.