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Arizona State – Central Arkansas preview

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There’s something to be said for a clean slate. On Saturday evening, Arizona State gets the chance to remove the 10-21 record that accompanied them throughout the offseason and write a new chapter in the history books.

This chapter promises tales of a local superhero saving a program in despair, epics of a 7-foot-2 gargantuan teaching opponents lessons from the post, and legends of a transfer rising from the flames set in a land where three pointers rain down as the main form of precipitation.

In all likelihood, the Sun Devils 2012-2013 season won’t play out like the fairytale mentioned above. Coach Herb Sendek knows this is a rebuilding year, but not a season devoid of hope.

How does Mesa High product Jahii Carson stack up against collegiate talent? Was the second half of last season an aberration, or is Jordan Bachynski coming into his own? Will Liberty Flames transfer Evan Gordon make a successful transition to the Pac-12?

On Saturday night, we stop asking questions and start getting answers.

In Central Arkansas, the Sun Devils face an opponent that faced similar challenges last season. The Bears won just three Southland Conference games en route to an 11th place finish, and lost 12 of their final 13 games altogether. They return all-conference guard LaQuentin Miles who averaged nearly 15 points per game, and will need Miles to come up big against superior Pac-12 opponents.

Though the Bears struggled to the finish line last year, the Sun Devils know they cannot take any team lightly. In last season’s nonconference slate, Arizona State lost games against mid-majors like Fairfield, Northern Arizona, and Southern Mississippi. If the Sun Devils want to avoid another collapse, winning has to start right away.

Keys to Success

 1. Limit Turnovers– In 2011-2012, Arizona State averaged 16.3 turnovers per game that contributed to an abysmal turnover margin of -5.03 that landed the Sun Devils last in the Pac-12 in that category. The first game of the season is an opportunity to show change and improvement from last season, and limiting turnovers is the best way to start.

2. Get Jahii Carson Involved Early– Whether Carson starts or not, no other Sun Devil player has the scoring capabilities and thrill factor that will get Sun Devil fans reinvested in another season.  When he’s on the court, expect Carson to shoot, score, and give Arizona State fans something to cheer about.

3. Spread the Love- Last season, no Sun Devil player averaged more than 13.7 points per game and Carrick Felix is the only returnee who scored above 10 points per game. For the Sun Devils to have success, they need all 5 starters touching the ball because no single player can carry this team alone.

Matchup to Watch: Jordan Bachynski (Center) vs. Jarvis Gardner (Forward)

In his final 13 games last season, Bachynski averaged 10.1 points per game and shot nearly 65% from the field. The Sun Devils are desperate for a consistent low-post presence and the 7-2 big man looks like the best option on the roster.

Gardner is undoubtedly the Bears best scoring presence in the paint and finished second on the team with 10.6 points per game last season. His six rebounds per game led Central Arkansas and the Bears will rely heavily on Gardner if they want to make a marked improvement over last season.

If the Sun Devils want to be competitive in Pac-12 play, they will have to find a post player who meshes well with the offensive scheme and can defend an opponent’s best player. Central Arkansas hails from the Southland Conference, and Bachynski needs to prove he can dominate a lesser opponent.

Quote of the WeekCoach Herb Sendek: “You really go into the first game a little bit blindfolded, and you really have to focus more than normal on your good habits, your fundamentals, and on your own team.”

Staff Predictions:

Mauricio Casillas: ASU 78, CAU 52         Player of the Game-Jahii Carson

Kerry Crowley: ASU 74, CAU 58            Player of the Game-Carrick Felix

Nick Krueger: ASU 80, CAU 65              Player of the Game-Jahii Carson

Cuyler Meade: ASU 57, CAU 45             Player of the Game-Jordan Bachynski

Cammeron Neely: ASU 77, CAU 65       Player of the Game-Carrick Felix

Evan Webeck: ASU 90, CAU 78             Player of the Game-Carrick Felix

Alex Gallant: ASU 76, CAU 59                Player of the Game-Jonathan Gilling

Trey Lanthier: ASU 68, CAU 63             Player of the Game-Evan Gordon

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