ASU Basketball: Devils Sweep Bay Area, Prep for Tourney


This past weekend, the ASU men’s basketball team swept the final series of the season by beating both Stanford and Cal at home.  The victories allow the Sun Devils to finish the regular season with a 17-14 overall record and an even 9-9 conference record.

Against Stanford on Thursday night, senior forward Shaquielle McKissic led the charge for ASU with 23 points.  McKissic, who admittedly was in somewhat of a slump the last couple of weeks, broke out of that cold stretch and returned to his relentless attacking style.  Freshman guard Tra Holder added 15 points in the 67-62 victory.

The story of the night was probably how the defense was able to “hold” Stanford star Chasson Randle to just 16 points.  Randle has been a thorn in the side of ASU for three years.  He’s difficult to defend on dribble penetration and he makes big shots for the Cardinal.  ASU also kept center Stefan Nastic somewhat in check, holding him to 16 points as well.

One interesting statistic is that Stanford out-rebounded ASU 36-29.  This is typically a stat and a dynamic of the game that trips up the Sun Devils.  They were able to overcome that deficit by shooting well from the free throw line, going 16 of 21.  Free throws have been a major problem for ASU in close games.  This victory over Stanford was considered an upset, even though playing in Tempe, because Stanford is a solid PAC-12 team.

Saturday’s game against Cal was Senior Day.  Senior Shaquielle McKissic once again delivered with 21 points.  In a game of runs, where ASU and Cal would trade 8-10 point surges, the Sun Devils held off Cal by settling down at the free throw line in the final minute going 7-8 from the stripe, finishing off Cal 74-70.  Savon Goodman added 18 tough points and Gerry Blakes contributed 16.  Center Eric Jacobsen was big on defense with 5 blocked shots.

Now, the Sun Devils prepare for the PAC-12 tournament this week in Las Vegas.  As the #5 seed, the Sun Devils open against USC on Wednesday at 3:30 Arizona time. The game will be televised on the PAC-12 network.  If they win that game, they’ll turn around 24 hours later and play UCLA.

Devils in Detail believes that ASU still has a chance to make the NCAA tournament.  Obviously, one way is to secure an automatic bid by winning the PAC-12 tournament.  That might be a tall order, but it’s possible.  The other possibility is if ASU wins at least two games in Las Vegas and makes things interesting in their third game.

So, an at-large bid for the Big Dance would require ASU to beat both USC and UCLA and then at least play “tough” in the semifinal game. (most likely against Arizona or Utah).  The other “X factor” in the possible selection of ASU to the National Tournament is the fact that they must hope that there are no major upsets in other conference tournaments.  For example, Gonzaga is a lock for an at-large bid.  They are going.  But if they were to get knocked off by another West Coast Conference team in their tournament, that team would get the automatic bid.  But Gonzaga goes too.  So that takes away an at-large bid that could potentially go to ASU.  There are several scenarios like that.

So, even if the Sun Devils get hot and give a good showing in Las Vegas, they’ll need to rely on the best teams across the country to “handle their business” during their own conference tournaments.

In any event, that’s what makes March Madness a lot of fun.  You never know what could happen.