Nov 29, 2013; Fullerton, CA, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herb Sendek in the second half of the game against the Charleston Cougars at the Titan Gym at Cal State Fullerton. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

ASU Basketball: New Year Brings New Challenges

When the New Year begins, so does the Pac-12 schedule for the Arizona State men’s basketball team. The Sun Devils have had an up and down time of it during the past month, but hope to start playing their best basketball in 2014 against more familiar, and more challenging opponents.

The biggest win of the season so far for Arizona State came on November 25 in Tempe. The Sun Devils matched up with the then 25th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles, a regular in the NCAA tournament. ASU was able to come up with the dramatic 79-77 win when its all-time block leader, Jordan Bachynski, added to his numbers with a block on Derrick Wilson to seal the win for his team.

The emotional victory against the Golden Eagles seemed to take a lot out of the team when the Wooden Legacy Tournament began at Cal State Fullerton. The Sun Devils simply had no answer for the Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who dropped 27 points and added six more rebounds in the 88-60 win for the Bluejays.

After a fairly easy win against the College of Charleston in ASU’s first game in the consolation bracket, the Sun Devils had what is their worst loss of the year — and it was a bad one. In the game to determine 5th place in the Wooden Legacy, ASU took on a Miami Hurricanes team that had not looked very good going in. Miami lost its first game of the season in overtime to the St. Francis Terriers. The Hurricanes fell to the George Washington Colonials in the first round of the Wooden Legacy in overtime and squeaked out a 48-46 win against the Cal State Fullerton Titans.

The Sun Devils shot an abysmal 39 percent from the field against Miami, and that led to them being outscored by nine points in the second half, losing 60-57. Jahii Carson played the most minutes on the team in the game, but the star point guard only managed eight points after shooting 2-14 from the field.

ASU rebounded after the poor showing in Southern California for its next two games, beating DePaul (on the road) and Grambling State by a combined 64 points. The Sun Devils even managed to reach their highest points total of the season against Grambling with 97. Shaquielle McKissic also came alive with a team-leading 19 points off the bench.

ASU will end 2013 with two home games, hosting Texas Tech on December 21 (just nine days before the ASU football team faces the Red Raiders in the Holiday Bowl) and the UC Irvine Anteaters on December 28.

The Sun Devils then start the new year on January 2 hosting the Washington Huskies in the first Pac-12 match-up of the season. The early part of their conference schedule includes a trip to Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA in their home gyms. ASU played UCLA three times last season, and after a great performance at home (winning 78-60), it dropped a hard one to the Bruins in overtime inside the Pauley Pavilion and again in the Pac-12 tournament.

Four days after UCLA, the Sun Devils have their toughest test of the current campaign, traveling to Tucson to face the Arizona Wildcats, the current #1 ranked team in the nation. Playing in the McKale Center is not an easy task, and it doesn’t seem like the Sun Devils match up all that well with the Wildcats this season.

The Pac-12 schedule is a daunting one all-around for Arizona State. The Pac-12 is full of quality basketball teams and the Sun Devils will have to play all of them at least once. They’ll also have to play some of the better ones twice during the regular season. Teams like the 20th ranked Colorado Buffaloes and 13th ranked Oregon Ducks are not easy games by any stretch of the imagination, but neither are games against unranked teams like Stanford or UCLA.

ASU will be looking to fight for a spot in the national tournament this season, but it won’t be easy with the upcoming schedule. 2014 holds many mountains for the Sun Devils to climb; it’s almost time to see what Herb Sendek’s team is really made of.

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