ASU women’s basketball finished non-conference with a 9-3 record, but with the competition getting tougher, how do they look heading into Pac-12 play?
Having their youngest core in the past seven years, ASU will be severely tested when the Pac-12 season starts at Colorado Friday.
The Devils appear to have a gaudy record at 9-3, but are winless against top-25 opposition. Colorado is 9-2 and have won nine out of their last ten. But, they have had an extremely easy schedule thus far, playing no ranked teams to this point.
The Devils currently start two sophomore guards and three juniors in the frontcourt. Only one regular starter from last season, point guard Reili Richardson, remains on the active roster.
The team lost their most experienced player, Sabrina Haines, to a torn ACL in early December. She went down as the second leading scorer and was tied with the since graduated Sophie Brunner as the team’s leading scorer in postseason play last year.
There is plenty of uncertainty with this team. They have dominated inferior teams on the schedule. They own a 20.8-point win differential, but they are 0-3 in their three games against teams that are currently ranked.
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There are four teams in the Pac-12 who are placed in the top 25 at the moment: Oregon (10), UCLA (11), Oregon State (17), and Cal (20). There are also seven Pac-12 teams that currently hold a higher RPI than ASU, including the Devils’ next opponent after CU, Utah.
The Sun Devils under head coach Charli Turner Thorne have gone to the NCAA Tournament in 17 out of the last 18 years. To go back and have a chance at the title is definitely the goal of this season.
Last season, Arizona State finished fifth in the conference and made the tournament as an No. 8 seed. Seven teams from the Pac-12 made it into the bracket.
In order to make the tournament, they’ll need to stay around .500 in conference play as they did last year when they finished 9-9. In order to get a favorable seed, they’ll need to improve from last year and prove to be a top four team in the conference.
They can get there starting with strong defense. This has also been a major strength so far. The Sun Devils have allowed more than 65 points in a game only once.
Arizona State only allows 52.9 points-per-game overall. Perimeter defense has been key as opponents only shoot 28.6 percent from three.
Their aggressiveness on the defensive end has also resulted in producing turnovers forcing just under 18 per game which is more than anyone else in the Pac-12 thus far.
ASU will also need to continue to apply pressure inside offensively. ASU has received a major boost from their bigs this year.
Junior forward Kianna Ibis has been a consistent threat inside, scoring 12.1 points per game. Junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman has been a solid scorer (8.7 points-per-game) and rebounder (7.3 per game).
Sophomore Jamie Ruden has been great off of the bench with 10.5 points per game while shooting 58 percent from three. The Devils have also out-rebounded opponents by 91 in twelve games.
The Sun Devils certainly have the personnel to play well against the best of the Pac-12. They played a very competitive game earlier this year in a tough loss against the currently fifth ranked Mississippi State, but their ability to win difficult games is a question. They have not won a game that has come down to the wire, but conference play should give them a lot of that experience.