ASU basketball sits at 10-2 overall, yet hasn't garnered much praise due to their perceived inept non-conference schedule. However, perhaps surprisingly, the Sun Devil opponents' combined record is above .500 (68-63.)
According to ESPN—stats never lie—outliers like 14th ranked Creighton (11-1) help increase the Devil's RPI. While the ASU resume to date is nowhere near a NCAA tournament level, improvement and progress are evident.
Seemingly everyone, including myself at times, is willing to dish out harsh critiques. Conversely, practically no one is dishing out kudos.
In recent Coach Sendek post game press conferences, he vaguely touched base on ASU's early season foes. Sendek essentially stated that while booking tougher games might seem easy, the process is tougher than a simple phone call.
Why should top-notch programs along the lines of Syracuse, Florida, Duke etc. play ASU? Since the James Harden era, there is no legitimate answer. However, under the Jahii Carson era, there are a plethora of reasons why.
In previous seasons, a win over ASU meant seemingly nothing besides taking care of business. Now a win over ASU signifies overcoming premier freshman point guard Jahii Carson, ultra athletic wingman Carrick Felix, sharp shooters Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling and 7-foot-2 block machine Jordan Bachynski. Sure, winning against the Devils may not be impressive enough to put on mom's refrigerator, but is good enough to be proud of.
To put ASU's 10-2 record in perspective, lets look back at 2011. ASU sported a 5-7 mark over the teams opening 12 game stretch last season. Comparatively speaking, the quality of challengers are very similar.
Personally, I attended numerous basketball games as a fan for the first time since being an eager freshman. Going to work at Wells Fargo Arena has turned into entertainment and excitement. During previous years, I almost preferred listening to girls gossip then watch ASU b-ball. Alright, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.
If not, let me attempt to clarify myself. From witnessing Carson's pinpoint passing to Felix's monstrous dunks, ASU basketball has been revitalized. Regardless of the outcome when double zeroes strike, fans are now getting a show nightly.
The University of Arizona's 11-0 record and number four ranking could be contributing to ASU flying under the radar. Juxtaposing the Wildcats and Devils on the court is unfair, because of vastly different program histories. Modern day citizens are getting so competitive, consistently demanding big time results. People commonly forget, success doesn't come overnight, requiring time, effort and collective unity.
Media experts and Hall of Fame votes are granted based on performance and championships. However, the journeys leading up are equally important.
The 2012 ASU basketball script is in the final chapter, and that chapter ends with countless cliffhangers but a relatively happy ending. Turnovers, rebounding and defensive problems will carry over to 2013, but optimism and positive omens should as well.