Heading into Saturday's Pac-12 conference opener against the Arizona Wildcats, the Arizona St. Sun Devils are 4-8 and have had three consecutive losses by three points or less. Sun Devils radio analyst Kyle Todd provided some perspective on the team's struggle and other topics in an interview with Hod Rabino of Devils Digest. Following are some of the highlights from Dodd's interview.
Asked about ASU's recent late game shortcomings, Dodd had this to say:
"When you look at the way this team has lost its last few games (ASU lost three straight contests by three points or less), you can see that the minute things start to turn a little bit the body language changes, the energy is deflated and they get the ‘here we go again' feeling.
The team has to find ways to change that and I think this is where not having a senior, having a player that can look to that has been through some of these battles is hurting them."
Dodd's assessment here is spot on. It's a classic pattern in sports (and in life, really): teams (or people) that have continued success or continued failure have a tendency to associate with those same emotions when they're faced with a similar situation in the future. Dodd goes on to say that Trent Lockett is the most likely candidate to emerge as a leader but includes that ASU needs more production from multiple players in order to be successful, which brings us nicely to Dodd's analysis of Carrick Felix:
"He's one player that everybody in the program and every ASU fan is just waiting for him to explode. He has some moments where you can see how good he can be, but now he has to put together good back to back games, or even good back to back sequences. It seems that as soon as he has some success he might float out there a little."
I think that Todd has hit on something important here. If this ASU team wants to make a significant stride from last year, it will need to have several players step up and contribute at high levels. Keala King has already started to do that (something that Dodd also talks about in the interview). If Felix can emerge as a consistent threat this season, what's to stop the Sun Devils from surprising some people in conference play? Though the absence of Jahii Carson and the play of Lockett might be more scrutinized topics this season, Felix's development (or lack thereof) could have more of an immediate impact on the team's progression than either of those two topics.
The interview concludes with Dodd providing the top three things that the Sun Devils absolutely must do in order to be successful in the Pac-12:
"Number one, they have to stick as a team and every night bring unbelievable energy and out compete their opponent all throughout the game. Number two, is cut down on the turnovers. That has been a huge issue all season and they have to do a better job taking care of the basketball and get good possessions every trip down the floor. Number three, they have to eliminate those long stretches where they don't execute on either end of the floor. Every game they have those long lulls that really hurt them.
All three things really go hand in hand with each other, but [these] are the things that this team needs to improve on the most."
ASU needs to bring energy, ball control and consistency to the table as Pac-12 play begins. Those are three huge issues that won't be addressed overnight, but the Sun Devils have a chance to begin changing those three dimensions of their game with this year's conference schedule. For the sake of this season, let's hope that this transformation starts occurring sooner rather than later. And really, what better stage is there to start making Dodd's words come true than this weekend's game against the Wildcats?