(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
With the full men’s basketball schedule being released, the Arizona State Sun Devils and their fans can have more structure in speculating how the 2014-15 season will play out for head coach Herb Sendek and his squad.
ASU will attempt to find their way back to the NCAA tournament despite losing their top three leading scorers from last season — a season in which they averaged 75.3 points per contest, the most under Sendek since the 2004-05 season.
The Sun Devils will play 18 games in Wells Fargo Arena, where they went 16-1 on the season, their lone home loss coming by way of the Oregon State Beavers in overtime. The 16 home victories tied for the most by a Sendek-coached team.
They will look to returners such as sixth-year senior swingman Shaquielle McKissic and senior forward Jonathan Gilling to stabilize the team as well as newcomers like junior college transfer forward Willie Atwood to help duplicate the results that landed the Sun Devils tied for third in the Pac-12.
ASU has a fairly weak nonconference schedule, but considering the amount of new parts and the losses due to graduation and the NBA Draft, the preseason should allow for the team to gel and find an identity. However, two games should be formidable tests before Pac-12 play begins.
Games to Watch For:
UNLV (December 3)
Last season, the Sun Devils travelled to Las Vegas, Nevada, to play the run-and-gun Rebels in the always-difficult Thomas & Mack Center. Jahii Carson shined in the contest, racking up 40 points and seven assists to lead ASU to a 86-80 victory. Now, UNLV will head to Wells Fargo Arena with both teams experiencing a good amount of change to their rosters. The game, coming three weeks into the season, should begin to reveal traits of both squads.
at Marquette (December 16)
Once again, ASU’s biggest nonconference opponent comes in the form of the Marquette Golden Eagles. In Tempe, Jordan Bachynski’s late block preserved ASU’s 78-77 victory, but now the Sun Devils travel to Milwaukee. On paper, Marquette is much deeper than ASU, but this would be the biggest upset-opportunity for Sendek’s team in the nonconference.
at Arizona (January 4)
Who could forget the last time these teams played? Two overtimes and one unforgettable block led to what was possibly the biggest upset of college basketball’s regular season as ASU took down the then-No. 2 Wildcats in Tempe. However, once again, Arizona reloaded with the No. 4 rated recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. Most notably, the Wildcats reeled in Stanley Johnson, the No. 3 player in the 2014 class. Nevertheless, the Pac-12 opener for the Sun Devils will be as intense as any other contest with the Wildcats, and rivalry games can be unpredictable, as we all learned last February.
at Oregon State
The Beavers took ASU to overtime in both matchups last season, splitting the series. There’s little reason to not believe the same could occur as both teams lost their leading scorers from last season’s roster and have junior college transfers that look to make big contributions to their respective teams.
ASU will hold their annual Maroon and Gold open practice on October 11 at 11:30 a.m. in the Weatherup Center.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com