At the time of this article, the Arizona State Sun Devils are 13-2 and 2-0 in Pac-12 conference play. They have played a relatively easy schedule, beating eight teams with an RPI of 200 or higher. ASU's signature win came last night against Colorado, a team ranked sixth overall in RPI.
Despite the great start, the team must improve on some fundamentals if they are to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament in March. The most important fundamental for Herb Sendek's club to work on is obvious: free throw shooting.
Through 15 games, the Sun Devils attempted 352 free throws and converted 220 of them, a 62.5% shooting percentage. In two Pac-12 contests, ASU is averaging 58.1% (25-43). These numbers do not add up to long term success in 2013 unless everyone starts making more shots from the charity stripe.
Telling statistic: Arizona State's best free throw shooter, Jahii Carson, is averaging 72.7% from the free throw line. The rest of the starting five is shooting between 60% and 68% from the line, while the reserves are all below 60%. Free throw shooting is this team's achilles heel, and Colorado nearly made a run at the end of the game last night thanks to mediocre free throw attempts.
The Devils have a lot of positive momentum, but coach Sendek must emphasize and focus on his team's conditioning in this aspect of the game if they are to win close contests in the Pac-12 conference. After last season, where a 23-11 Arizona team did not make the NCAA Tournament, ASU will need to win at least 11 or 12 games down the stretch to safely qualify.