It’s been said before, and surely it still applies to this season’s Sun Devils basketball team: what a difference a year can make.
At this time last season ASU was heading into its Pac-12 conference opener at the turn of the new year with a disappointing record of 4-8. Plagued by inconsistent play, abysmal defense, and losing streaks, those Sun Devils were a far different team than the squad in Tempe today.
Today, Arizona State will start conference play with a pleasantly surprising 11-2 record that stands as one more win than the team registered in all of its games last season; not to mention a starting point guard that is getting acclaim from various fronts across the country, a new and improved defensive set, and a starting five that has begun to collectively contribute on a nightly basis.
On the opening day of Pac-12 play, ASU faces off against the 8-4 Utah Utes. The Utes are a team that, like ASU, had weak opponents on their pre-conference schedule. In fact the two teams even had mutual opponents (Cal State Northridge, Sacramento State). However, the Utes fell to both opponents, and Arizona State swept them.
Utah lost to Sac State on account of an influx of three pointers from the Hornets, and a 5-21 shooting night from behind the arch themselves. Unlike the loss to Cal State, which saw a decent shooting day from both teams, Utah instead faltered down the stretch, suffering a technical foul late courtesy of a Chris Webber-esque timeout. However, the Utes have exceeded expectations this season as they too already have more wins than they recorded in the previous season altogether.
Although neither team has seen an abundance of high competition, they each have a few quality wins to their name, as well as a bad loss.
With all of that being considered, ASU’s recent string of team wins with multiple players contributing in various aspects of the game, there is no reason the Sun Devils shouldn’t start off Pac-12 conference play with a win.
Keys to Victory
1. Business as Usual
Although this does mark a transition point in the season for ASU, more of the same is how Sun Devils should be focusing on playing. The starting five has consistently combined to record the points necessary to get a win as of late, with a different member stepping up to lead the pack each game.
2. Get Bachynski Going
Jordan Bachynski has been struggling lately, averaging 6.7 points , 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 turnovers in his last three games. As the Devils head into the meat of their schedule, it would behoove them to get Bachynski back on the right track. Getting Bachynski involved early and often as they did against Dartmouth but then later strayed from is in the best interest of the Sun Devils’ present and future.
3. Gordon and Gilling from Long Distance
Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling are 17-33 from three point range in the last two games. Hot three point shooting has often been Utah’s reckoning thus far. Continuing Gordon and Gilling’s hot shooting will be key.
Matchup to Watch (did someone say Bachynski?): Jordan Bachynski vs. Dallin Bachynski
Although this might not truly be the premier pairing, what the Bachynski vs. Bachynski matchup lacks in overall play, makes up for in total intrigue. This is the first time the Bachynski brothers will play each other in college. Even though Dallin is not in the starting lineup like his brother, he does average a little less than 20 minutes a game – more than enough time to see the two brothers battle each other in the post. Dallin is averaging 7 and 6 off the bench, while Jordan is averaging 9 and 7 starting for the Sun Devils. Jordan Bachynski is going through a bit of a slump at this point in the season; however, one would be inclined to think he’ll be ready to go for this battle with his brother Wednesday night.