ASU Basketball: Three-game stretch could define Devils

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 19: Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils high fives Tra Holder
TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 19: Head coach Bobby Hurley of the Arizona State Sun Devils high fives Tra Holder /

A once promising start for ASU basketball came to a crashing halt and has since been replaced with a team looking for a way to get back on track.

Spanning from November through the first weekend of April, the college basketball season is a marathon. The opening months are about establishing pace before surging to the finish line.

Sporting a 5-6 record in conference, Arizona State is running out of time to make up ground following a 12-0 start to the year. With their toughest three game stretch of the season opening on Thursday against USC, winning the front end of a Pac-12 weekend is an optimal place to start.

Prior to a loss at UCLA on Feb. 3, the Trojans won six straight games and currently sit a half game above Washington for second place in the standings.

Led by senior Jordan McLaughlin, USC operates a pick-and-roll offense that allows its lead guard to facilitate and run the offense. McLaughlin leads the conference with 7.7 assists per game and shoots 42 percent from deep.

Additionally, the Trojans possess agile forwards in leading scorers Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu. At 6-foot-10 and 6-foot-11, respectively, both bigs can score from all three levels and aggressively crash the paint.

Facing the depth of USC poses problems for most teams in the Pac-12. For ASU to stack up to a larger, physical Trojan team, the performances of Romello White and DeQuon Lake on the defensive glass will be crucial.

On the ball, the backcourt of Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice will be tasked with getting around screens and limiting open shots on the perimeter.

Next: ASU Basketball: 2018 Pac-12 Week 6 Power Rankings

While the Trojans have played well as of late, the Sun Devils have won two of the past three meetings between the teams. USC will look to solidify itself at the top of the conference while ASU will try to make a late-season push. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. MT and it can be seen on ESPN2.