While Saturday's box score appears solid and lopsided in ASU's favor, there remains plenty of improvement needed going forward. Casual fans probably feel good after the 79-64 victory over Central Arkansas, yet I am personally concerned.
Excluding ASU's magnificent 16-0 run to close first half action, the squads were about even. Central Arkansas, hailing from the South Land conference, should have been overwhelmed by Pac-12 play.
Conversely, a win is a win. The 13th ranked UCLA Bruins squeaked out a one-point triumph over UCI, showing typical early season woes. Therefore, teams including our very own Devils deserve time to work out the kinks.
Although, due to my New York blood, patience is a characteristic I lack. After one full week of practice, ASU has had ample time to correct their mistakes.
Listed below are three particular aspects ASU must clean up for a successful 2012-2013 season.
In college basketball, 7-footers are a rarity. ASU sports two behemoths in Jordan Bachynski and Ruslan Pateev, 6-foot-10 Eric Jacobson, 6-foot-7 Jonathan Gilling and lengthy 6-foot-6 Carrick Felix. Height issues are not a valid excuse inside Wells Fargo arena.
Central Arkansas did not sport a single player over 6-foot-7, giving ASU the clear advantage, right? Think again. The Sun Devils brought in 47 boards while the Bears accumulated 42.
In addition, ASU allowed 17 offensive rebounds, which is totally inexcusable. Boxing out requires simple effort, but can easily decide outcomes of games. Rebounding woes are obvious, but ASU has the proper personnel to fix the issue immediately.
Starting center Jordan Bachynski's 12 rebounds lead the squad. Bachynski's new aggressive mentality was evident, proving to be a reliable force down in the paint.
Central Arkansas guard LeQuentin Miles had eight boards, meaning the ASU guards are either leaking out prematurely or not bodying up tough enough. The majority of blame belongs to Jahii Carson, but is a collective overall effort.
Without proper execution on the glass, ASU's offense will not be able to push tempo, limiting scoring opportunities. Coach Herb Sendek knows the importance of rebounding, and will drill it home throughout ASU basketball's entire season.
There is a fine line between playing high pace and sloppy. In Carson's debut, he began to realize the difference.
"When people say that we play a slow tempo guys tend try to prove them wrong, and go a little bit too fast," Carson said. "If we have fast pace and then we have slow patience, I think we will be fine."
Well said Mr. Carson. The articulate, talented and speedy young freshman did showcase glimpses of why he was so highly recruited.
On the other end of the spectrum, 16 turnovers are devastating and nearly impossible to overcome against quality opponents. At times, the full court press strategy caused fits, causing at least 2 turnovers. The boys in Maroon and Gold have to be more cautious with the rock.
Turnovers disrupt offensive flow, and also grant routine bucket chances. Surprisingly, no ASU player personally coughed up the ball over three times. Instead, practically everyone made a careless mistake numerous times.
3. Free Throw Shooting
Sendek coached ball clubs pride themselves on drilling free throws. ASU failed miserably from the charity strike during the opener, going 13-for-25 overall, which is 52 percent.
Evan Gordon's 5-for-8 mark was the best amongst any Sun Devil baller. Other notable looks came from Carson at 3-for-6, Bachynski 1-for-3, Chris Colvin 3-for-6 and more. Free throw shooting may never be ASU's strength, but should hit at least around 70 percent.
Stay after practice, take 100 shots from the line, it will all pay off. ASU cannot afford to let 13 points slip of the scoreboard. Games often come down to one point, placing further importance on every shot.
Sure the Devils do not have a plethora of sharp shooters, but most are capable of hitting open looks. The name (free throws) says it all, they are meant to be FREE. When Pac-12 competition rolls around, mistakes like these could be the deciding factor.
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