After a win over in-state rival Arizona, ASU basketball sets its sights toward Washington State and senior forward Robert Franks.
Rewind a week and the narrative for this Arizona State team is entirely different.
Fresh off a loss to USC, the Sun Devils were sitting 5-3 in Pac-12 and tied for third in the conference. ASU now sits tied for second in the “Conference of Champions,” and the Sun Devils were winners in three of their past four games.
In hopes of continuing its winning ways, Arizona State hosts Washington State, a team that has encountered different results lately. The Cougars, 1-8 in conference, have lost their last five games – all but one of which were by double digits.
In a forgettable season, one player has been a saving grace – Robert Franks.
A senior forward, Franks leads the Pac-12 in scoring with 21.4 points per game. In 16 of the 17 games in which Franks has played, he’s reached double figures.
What’s most impressive about his prolific season? Not only does he score, he scores efficiently.
His 51.2 field-goal percentage is among the best in the conference, but that’s not where it ends. He is also shooting 34.9 from deep, a stellar clip for a forward.
In addition to his sound numbers from the field, Franks’ presence down low is notable.
Averaging 7.4 boards per contest, Franks is one of the Pac-12’s best rebounders. Franks has racked up five or more boards in 13 of his 17 games this season.
Athleticism is something else that sets him apart from other bigs.
Standing 6-foot-9, Franks shouldn’t be able to move like he does. Franks’ handles are strong for a forward, setting him up with key layup and dunk opportunities.
This was on full display against California — the Cougars’ only conference win.
In the post, Franks draws a lot of contact, sending him to the free-throw line often. That’s not what his opponents want. A year ago, Franks finished third in the conference with an 85.4 percent figure from the charity stripe, and this year, he’s still shooting a consistent 78.5 percent.
Thankfully for the Sun Devils, they have faced several athletic bigs throughout the season. Most recently, that was Arizona’s Chase Jeter.
Jeter, a 6-foot-10 Duke transfer, was held to just seven points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field. Zylan Cheatham, Romello White and company asserted their dominance in the paint, and it resulted in a poor performance from Arizona’s second-leading scorer.
Stopping Franks will be anything but easy for ASU. He is among the nation’s best posts offensively. But if they can, Washington State may struggle to find a primary source of offense.