Arizona State Basketball is 5-0.
The Sun Devils haven’t started off their season that well since 1985. They are playing good basketball. And they are not playing against poor competition. Friday night’s win over Bradley was a solid victory. Coming into this game, Bradley was 4-1. Their lone loss was to Illinois. The only real knock on this game was that ASU started off slowly. It may have been looking ahead to Monday’s match-up with #22 Marquette.
Some thoughts on ASU’s victory over the Braves:
- Unselfish play. The Sun Devils are doing an excellent job of working to get everyone involved. They are making the extra pass to find the open man. That may seem like a simple concept, but it eludes many players and many teams. But when Devils sees a perimeter defender get out of position, they don’t take the first look they get — they wait for the defense to rotate and then pass to a teammate that is unguarded. This demonstrates great awareness and unselfishness.
- Terrific shooting. I alluded to this earlier in the week, and it still applies. The Sun Devils so far are shooting the ball extremely well from behind the arc. And they are doing it with several players. In their earlier victory over UNLV, Jonathan Gilling was 0-9 and they still won. Gilling was the leading three-point shooter in the conference last season. That speaks volumes. Against Bradley, he found his rhythm again, going 4-4 in the first half alone. But collectively, this team is a nightmare to defend when it comes to covering shooters.
- ASU played 10 players in the first half, which is significant. Most of the time, subs get their playing time late in the second half. Usually, a team will only have an eight-man rotation during the first half when the game is still close. But ASU substituted early and actually extended their lead.
- To nitpick, one aspect that ASU needs to improve is rebounding. They were out-rebounded by Bradley in the first half and then were just about even in the second half. This is a statistic and a “team characteristic” that has to change. It appears to me, just by pure observation, that the Sun Devil players are assuming that Jordan Bachynski will snag every rebound and are not being as aggressive as they should be.
- Finally, if I was coach Sendek, I would like to see cleaner action on offense — or at least more intensity. ASU got caught standing and watching Jahii Carson dribble just a little too much. The Devils need to cut harder, set more screens and come off those screens tighter and quicker.
One interesting twist to the Bradley game was the emergence of a 2-2-1 three quarter court press by ASU. This is typically known as a “soft press” designed to just slow a team down, not necessarily create lots of pressure and cause turnovers. (Although, they caught Bradley off guard a couple of times and did make them throw the ball away.) This is just a different look that I’m sure Coach Herb Sendek wanted to see in live action.
Right now, this team should feel very confident and hungry for some recognition. If they can beat Marquette on Monday, ASU fans might see their Sun Devil basketball team ranked in the top 25, which would be pretty exciting for this program.