Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

ASU's men's basketball 'battled and fought' with early, fluctuating offensive surge that failed to mesh with defensive prowess

The Sun Devils' loss to TCU in March Madness perfectly sums up the entire up-and-down carousel season and the squad looks toward an offseason it hopes will be full of recruiting to take another step


ASU's men's basketball 'battled and fought' with early, fluctuating offensive surge that failed to mesh with defensive prowess

The Sun Devils' loss to TCU in March Madness perfectly sums up the entire up-and-down carousel season and the squad looks toward an offseason it hopes will be full of recruiting to take another step

Arizona State sophomore guard Frankie Collins (10) outruns an Arizona defender at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. ASU lost 78-59.

The thing that stood between ASU's men's basketball team advancing to its first Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009 was a floater with three seconds remaining from Texas Christian University's sophomore forward JaKobe Coles

"I'm just heartbroken for these guys," said head coach Bobby Hurley after elimination. "Giving me everything they had all year. Just really advanced Arizona State basketball and played winning basketball all year. Played unselfishly, played resilient, battled and fought. It would take the last shot to put us away." 

READ MORE: Last-second, game-winning floater by TCU ends ASU men's basketball's season 23-13

The season finale against TCU was an analogy for how the Sun Devils' season has played out this year. An offensive surge in the first half eventually grounded into reality as ASU's offensive success fluctuated alongside solid defense and late shot-making that ultimately still resulted in a losing effort. 

How the season went

Its most impressive offensive performances came against Michigan, Creighton, Arizona and Nevada. The only issue was, outside of a nine-game winning streak, the Sun Devils failed to mesh their defensive prowess consistently with their offense. 

Sophomore transfer guard Frankie Collins, who arrived from Michigan, did what he could to keep ASU's offense afloat. Before the season, Collins said he thought he and junior guard DJ Horne could be one of the best backcourts in the nation. While they may not be world-renowned, they impacted the Sun Devils' offense differently. 

Members of the public slowly start to fill Desert Financial Arena at a men's basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Tempe.

Horne continued leading ASU as one of its top scorers for the season, averaging 12.5 points per game. He lost the top scoring slot he held a season ago to fifth-year transfer guard Desmond Cambridge Jr., who tallied 14 points per game and many highlight reel jump shots. Collins emerged as one of the Pac-12's most solid facilitators finishing sixth in the standings averaging just over four assists per game.

Emphatically, ASU earned one of its first head-turning wins when it beat Michigan 87-62 in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the start of a trend that prevailed throughout the remainder of the season; persistent wins on the road, including going 3-0 in non-conference neutral site games in the regular season. After Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament play, the Sun Devils finished 6-2 overall at neutral sites. 

After knocking off the then-ranked Wolverines, ASU held a 4-1 record, its only loss coming against Texas Southern University in overtime. ASU's first win in Brooklyn against Virginia Commonwealth University catalyzed a nine-game winning streak, including the Sun Devils marching into Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas and gutting out a victory against a Creighton team that fell short in the Elite Eight. 

On Dec. 19, 2022, as ASU prepared to take on the University of San Francisco away, the Sun Devils earned an AP top-25 nod at the 25th slot. That's when the up-and-down carousel began.

The 11-2 Sun Devils ended non-conference play in a 97-60 loss to USF and, 10 days later, a loss to Arizona at home 69-60 during winter break. The Sun Devils followed up their two-game skid with a four-game winning streak knocking off Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State. Then another four-game skid losing to the Los Angeles teams, USC and UCLA, and Washington and Washington State.

READ MORE: Inside ASU men's basketball's four-game skid

ASU Sophomore Guard Frankie Collins (10) runs past USC defenders at the ASU vs. USC men's basketball game at Desert Financial Arena on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023. ASU lost 77-69.

The back-and-forth nature of how ASU's season had already played out by the time it reached McKale Memorial Center in Tucson to play Arizona at 19-9, its tournament hopes still lingering. Key wins got ASU's name at the door, but its losses left it knocking.

Against the No. 7 ranked Wildcats, the Sun Devils shot the lights out all game, going punch-for-punch, and got the last laugh on a half-court heave from Cambridge Jr., earning ASU its first win in Tucson since the 2018-19 season. The Sun Devils lost their last two regular season games against USC and UCLA; however, in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, flourished and beat USC in their third meeting in the second round.

When the Sun Devils returned home after losing to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semi-final and concluded its Pac-12 postseason at 22-12, they received news that their in-season efforts had sufficed to earn an NCAA Tournament bid in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio against Nevada. ASU beat Nevada 98-73 to advance to its season finale, against TCU, in Denver.

Looking forward

The best offenses usually contain the gift of continuity. While playing defense, you can rely on individual skill and athleticism; contrarily, communication and chemistry are essential to flourish offensively. It's tough to manufacture a formidable offense when 80% of the starting lineup is transfer students. 

Collins, Cambridge Jr., senior guard Devan Cambridge and senior forward Warren Washington held vital roles as starters for the Sun Devils as transfers that, for better or worse, produced ricocheting ripple effects still playing out. 

ASU fifth-year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. (4) drives to the basket for a layup against Oregon State at Desert Financial Arena on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. ASU won 68-57. 

Sophomore guard Jamiya Neal, who broke out near the end of the season, and sophomore center Enoch Boakye entered the transfer portal within a week of ASU's loss to the Horned Frogs. Horne, freshman guard Austin Nunez, and redshirt senior guard Luther Muhammad also entered the portal.  

After the loss, Hurley said everyone on the team is "just as valuable" to each other, but now faces a scenario where he might need again to rebuild his roster. 

Retaining Cambridge, as he announced via Instagram, could eventually be looked at as an offseason saving grace. 

Cambridge, who averaged almost 10 points and over five rebounds, was a versatile player for the Sun Devils, offering sparks beyond the numbers as a two-way player. In Tempe, Cambridge nearly doubled his scoring average from a season ago at Auburn, and at 6-feet-6-inches tall, he often defended opposing guards and forwards with ferocity. That includes the likes of USC's backcourt of senior guard Boogie Ellis and fifth-year guard Drew Peterson, Arizona's junior forward Ąžuolas Tubelis and UCLA's Pac-12 player of the year, senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. 

At a press conference Monday, Hurley said preparation for next season has already begun. 

ASU men's basketball head coach Bobby Hurley shouts from the sidelines against Oregon State at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. ASU won 63-57.

"We've been very aggressive, exploring multiple ways that we're going to surround the core of this coming team with players who are going to put us in a position to take further steps than we did this year," he said. 

READ MORE: ASU extends basketball coach Bobby Hurley's contract through 2026

Cambridge Jr. and Muhammad are no longer eligible to play at ASU. Horne, Neal and Nunez, who each played key roles in ASU's rotation throughout the season, have entered the NCAA's transfer portal. 

The transfer portal is nonbinding, and players who have entered can still return to their original school, but per NCAA data, only 5% of players who entered the portal in 2020 and 2021 returned to their original school. 

That leaves Collins and Cambridge from this year's rotation left on next season's roster, with the decisions of senior forward Alonzo Gaffney and Washington looming. 

Hurley said his goal is to have "mostly everything" determined regarding next season's roster by the first week of May, but expects to see roster-building activities commence soon. 

Redshirt senior guard Luther Muhammad (1) looks to the basket at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Las Vegas. ASU beat Oregon State 63-57.

"Things are going to happen quickly," he said. "We're being very active. There's almost not enough time in the day for me the last few days — and my staff as well — as much as we've been on the phones with a variety of situations."

A possible roadblock for Hurley and his staff as they rebuild the roster is the influence that players' ability to benefit from their name, image and likeness has in the recruiting process. 

"NIL plays a big role, believe me," Hurley said. "We've lost guys to NIL to other places that have had a serious commitment to that. Things that we couldn't compete with."

READ MORE: Name, image and likeness makes an impact on ASU men's basketball team

Horne, Neal and Nunez were among the players who tweeted their support of a player-led NIL collective late in the season, which Horne at the time described as an attempt to "get some extra money into our pocket with this whole new NIL thing starting up."

Cambridge, who announced his return to ASU next season via Instagram, signed to an NIL representation group with his brother, Cambridge Jr., and Washington, before last season that facilitated sponsorship deals for each of them throughout the year. 

ASU senior forward Warren Washington (22) helps keep the court clear as junior guard DJ Horne (0) dribbles the ball down the court at the ASU vs. University of Oregon men's basketball game at Desert Financial Arena on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Tempe. ASU lost 70-75.

Although Hurley said he does not believe NIL is the sole reason any player has entered the transfer portal, he does acknowledge it has likely played a role.

"We can't pretend that it's not important," he said. 

Collins, who transferred from Michigan before this past season, fired off a series of tweets on Saturday indicating he was actively working to help build next season's roster. 

Whether it be via Collins or the coaching staff, ASU men's basketball has its work cut out for it, from retaining Collins to replacing its key departing pieces. 

"We're going to bring back a core of guys that understand the path to get to the NCAA Tournament," he said. "We'll build around them and bring in the talent that we need to take another step." 

Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest and Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporters at or and follow @AlfredS_III and @_alexwakefield on Twitter. 

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.

Continue supporting student journalism and donate to The State Press today.

Subscribe to Pressing Matters


This website uses cookies to make your experience better and easier. By using this website you consent to our use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie Policy.