ASU Basketball: Sun Devils Take on Trojans


Today, at 3:30 Arizona time, the ASU men’s basketball team takes on the USC Trojans in first round action of the PAC-12 tournament.  The game will be played in Las Vegas and will be televised by the PAC-12 network.

With the tournament structure allowing the top 4 seeds to have a bye, #5 seed ASU matches up with #12 seed USC.  Anyone with experience watching tournament basketball knows that a game like this has “upset” written all over it.  Not just because it’s a 12/5 match-up, but because of the history.

First of all, USC has a habit of playing well in this tournament.  In the last few years, the Trojans have been masters of entering the post-season “under the radar” and playing their best basketball at the end of the year and winning some unexpected games.  Conversely, ASU has been quite the opposite.  The PAC-12/10 tournament, for some reason,  has not been a good venue for the Sun Devils lately.

Just as important as the history, there is also the challenge of straight up beating this USC team.  Recall that just over two weeks ago, ASU eked out a 64-59 victory over USC at home.  It was a game that the Trojans controlled most of the afternoon and threatened to run away with.  USC had a ten point lead with three and a half minutes to go.  Most people who know basketball would probably agree that the ASU victory over the Trojans was not so much a function of ASU coming up big, as much as it was a function of USC choking at the end of the game.

In fact, if you look at USC’s schedule, they’ve made a habit of that.  They’ve hung around with almost everybody they’ve played, but found a way to lose at the very end.  That’s a characteristic of a young team.  (USC has no seniors)  But this Southern Cal team has talent.  Guard Kahlil Dukes absolutely vexed the ASU defense on Feb. 22nd with his play-making ability.

If USC can combine that talent with their high-flying style of play and take the court with a chip on their shoulder, they can cause problems for anybody.  ASU coach Herb Sendek needs to do his best to make sure his basketball team is focused and not looking past USC.  In fact, this team should know better than that.  But college players are notorious for looking ahead.

For it’s cause, ASU has much to prove as well.  Freshman guard Tra Holder desperately wants to emerge as a premier point guard in the conference.  Seniors Shaquielle McKissic, Bo Barnes and Jon Gilling want to end their ASU careers with a bang.  They should be aware of the scenario that Devils in Detail laid out on Monday:  the Sun Devils must win at least their first two games in order to be considered for the NCAA Tournament.

Their goal is to shock the world and win this tournament.

But that grand vision starts with a victory today.  And a victory today will require supreme focus on stopping USC.