This afternoon, the Arizona State men’s basketball team takes on Oregon State in Corvallis. Tip-off is at 2:30 and can be seen on the PAC-12 network.
For ASU, a win today would give them a top four finish in the PAC-12 conference regular season standings. That accomplishment would earn them a first round bye in the PAC-12 tournament. Every college basketball team likes first round byes. (It’s an automatic advancement into the second round without playing a game and hopefully, any crazy upsets are already out of the way)
For this game, Coach Herb Sendek needs all hands on deck. To put it plainly, senior center Jordan Bachynski needs to be a dominant force inside. Sophomore point guard Jahii Carson needs to set the tempo on offense with his relentless attacking style. Forwards Jermaine Marshall, Shaquelle McKissic, Jonathan Gilling and Bo Barnes need to knock down shots, crash the boards and run the floor.
Standing in their way is the Oregon State Beavers, an enigmatic team that has talent and can play with anyone. Their problem is closing out games. They have lost a lot of games by narrow margins, including a thriller against Arizona last Wednesday night. Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson is a pure scorer and gave the Sun Devils fits in their last meeting in Tempe.
ASU’s only hope for victory is pretty much the same that it has been all year on the road; play inspired. This topic has been discussed ad nauseam by the media and basketball analysts. The Sun Devils play sluggish, disinterested basketball when they are the visiting team. They often dig themselves into a hole that they can’t get out of. It’s purely mental. It’s their mental approach to road games.
For this program to gain legitimate respect and to cement their place in the NCAA Tournament, they absolutely must play passionate basketball from the opening tip. They cannot get caught “looking ahead” or even ” looking behind”. They must stay in the moment and play with raw determination; understanding that their victory will have to be earned.
It all starts with leadership on the floor. Bachynski must will himself to score and be a defensive presence while staying out of foul trouble. Carson must direct the offense, make good decisions and have very few turnovers. The bench needs to contribute. And this team absolutely cannot get outworked. Quite simply, ASU has to make the decision that they will not be beat, end of story. If they display any other mentality, they’ll lose and they’ll have to pick up the pieces and scrape together an improbably run in Las Vegas.