The 2010-11 campaign was a rough season for the Arizona State Sun Devils, but not as terrible as Herb Sendek's first year at the school when the team won just two Pac-10 games. This season should not be as miserable for the Sun Devils, but they still figure to struggle even with the addition of highly touted freshman Jahii Carson.
In losing three of its top four scorers, Arizona State boasts a very young roster featuring no seniors. However, the addition of four-star recruit Jahii Carson has Arizona State fans optimistic. Carson averaged more than 32 points per game his senior season of high school and is a game-changer. Former Iowa State point guard and JUCO transfer Chris Colvin will back up Carson, although I would not be surprised if Sendek started both players.
The team's leading scorer a year ago, Trent Lockett will be relied heavily on the wing since the Sun Devils lack depth behind him. Lockett made the most of his increased role last season, doubling his scoring output. Sophomores Kaela King and Chanse Crerekmur will battle to earn the third starting guard spot if Colvin is not the guy. Liberty transfer Evan Gordon, who is the younger brother of the Clippers' Eric Gordon, adds competition in practice but must sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The frontcourt loses Richard Kuksiks who was able to stretch defenses with his three-point shooting. Sendek will have a decision to make regarding his starting five. Arizona State was not afraid to go small last year with Kuksiks and Kyle Cain, who are both just 6-7. Cain figures to earn back his starting, spot but who will join him in the frontcourt?
Small forward Carrick Felix had a rocky first season in Tempe but is the most talented of the options. If Sendek decides to go with a bigger look, either 7-2 Jordan Baachynski or 7-footer Ruslan Pateev will join the first five. Both guys bring a lot of size to the table, but lack a great deal of skill.
With only 10 scholarship players able to suit up this season, Arizona State does not have much flexibility with its lineup. They will rely heavily on a rather inexperienced backcourt and have to hope several of their young players make major strides to avoid finishing in last place in the Pac-12 for the second straight season. Luckily for the Sun Devils, there are several other teams in the conference that are going through a similar youth movement.
Player to Watch: Jahii Carson, PG
For a 5-10 point guard, Carson has some impressive athleticism. He is lightning quick with the basketball in his hands but also capable of knocking down triples. Sendek will likely hand the keys of the offense to Carson right away and he should immediately be Arizona State's go-to weapon along with Lockett.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/18 vs. New Mexico
11/24 vs. Fairfield (Old Spice Classic)
11/25 vs. Dayton/Wake Forest (Old Spice Classic)
11/27 vs. Minnesota/DePaul/Texas Tech/Indiana State (Old Spice Classic)