The Arizona State Sun Devils sit 13-2 on the season and 2-0 in conference. The team is getting some national attention as being one of the biggest surprises of the college basketball season. So we asked the question to our staff.
What specifically has surprised you the most about the ASU basketball team so far this season?
Brad Denny: Heading into the year, all the hype surrounding this team was about Jahii Carson, and to his credit, he has delivered in a major way. Over the first 15 games, Carson has averaged 16.7 point and has dished over over five assists per game.
But what's most striking to me is that the team is far from a one-man show. This team has some real depth, and can still find ways to win big games when their perceived "star" is shut down.
Take Sunday's win over Colorado. Carson was held to just five points and hit just one of his four shots, yet Carrick Felix had another outstanding game with 20, and Jordan Bachynski was dominant with 16 points, seven board and nine blocks. Felix has developed into the team's most outstanding player, and according to ASU color analyst Kyle Dodd, is showing up on NBA scouts' radar. Bachynski has parlayed a nice finish last year into a spot as one of the nation's elite defensive big men.
Throw in strong showings by Evan Gordon, Jonathan Gilling and Chris Colvin, and you suddenly have a team that can thrive even when one or two of their top guys are having an off night.
Tyler Nickel: For me, it is just the fact that the Devils are winning games the way they are. They are already 2-0 in the Pac-12, albeit not against the best teams in the conference and both victories came at home, but wins are wins. The team couldn't even get those last season.
I am also surprised at how well Jahii Carson has managed the team. Listening to him talk in press conferences and how he responds to tough questions from reporters has me thinking that he really is the star this ASU program needs. The freshman guard has been fantastic on and off the court and, hopefully, Herb Sendek can use cases like Carson as an example to help recruit more players of his caliber and build something great in Tempe.
Kerry Crowley: I too love the fact that this team is not a one-man show, but I think that any believe that any successful basketball team has to be able to beat an opponent in multiple ways. For me, the most surprising aspect of this season's team has been the emergence of Jordan Bachynski.
At the beginning of the season, post play was a huge question mark for the Sun Devils. Yes, Bachynski would start, but how short would Coach Sendek's leash be? After watching the maroon and gold scrimmage at the beginning of the year, I came away wondering how this team would be able to score in the paint and defend the rim.
For me, Bachynski has been the most pleasant surprise of all this year. Just last night, the big guy poured in 12 points, grabbed seven boards, and finished with another video game-like total of nine blocks. NINE BLOCKS. That number is ridiculous! Amazingly so, double digit blocks are not out of the question every time Bachynski steps on the floor.
Bachynski has become the interior presence the Sun Devils need to have if they want to succeed in Pac-12 conference play. When the Sun Devils struggled in the first ten minutes last night, they struggled because Bachynski wasn't a part of the offense yet. When he got involved, the team began to find its rhythm and the comeback ensued.
Watching Bachynski handle opponents has been a joy for me this season, and I really think he can continue to be a difference maker the rest of the way.
Nick Marek: What am I surprised with? Almost everything.
This team has come together surprisingly well after avoiding a program collapse last season. Kyle Cain and Keala King were both dismissed from the team, Chanse Creekmur left to play football while he still had a chance (no pun intended) and star athlete Trent Lockett decided to play his senior season in Marquette. Am I missing something or is the team actually 13-2?
That's impressive. I do not care how weak of a non-conference schedule the Sun Devils have played. At least they are winning. They competed with a top 20 Creighton team in Las Vegas over Thanksgiving despite losing and the only rough game of the year was seeing DePaul dismantle Arizona State.
ASU beat reigning Pac-12 Champion Colorado this past weekend thanks to a phenominal second half. Kerry mentioned Jordan Bachynski's 12-7-9 performance and senior Carrick Felix has been Mr. Reliable all season long. Besides the first game of the season, the Goodyear native has scored double-digit points in the last 14 games. Compared to other NCAA teams, Arizona State is average in most statistical categories but that does not matter because they are second in the conference behind No. 3 Arizona.
I would have been content with a sixth place finish in the Pac-12 and a chance to play in the NIT Tournament. All of a sudden, ASU has quickly evolved as a dark horse in the Pac-12. The biggest game of the season to date is coming up in just over a week when the Sun Devils host the Wildcats from Tucson.
The message to take away is do not spend too much time looking the Sun Devils' strength of schedule, this team can compete.
Cory Williams: We all thought Jordan Bachynski was going to be a useful player for the Devils this season, but few could have imagined his impact performance thus far. His presence in the paint has been the glue that has kept the ASU defense in place when they would have fallen apart in the past.
The most pleasant surprise has to be Carrick Felix. Since he arrived from College of Southern Idaho, we've all marveled at his physical tools but have been frustrated by both the team's struggles and the unfulfilled potential of Felix. Now, as a senior, he has the best team he has ever had at Arizona State flanking him. A true point guard distributes the ball creatively to Felix, while a competent big man keeps defenses from focusing their efforts on the lanky swingman.
Now that Felix has a team to play with, he has finally put all the pieces together -- not only is his 15.1 points per game a career high, but Felix is also collecting many more rebounds and shooting a much higher percentage from the field than ever before. Carrick Felix has finally arrived, and his contributions were essential to ASU's hot 13-2 start.
Cody Ulm: I tend to agree with Cory that Felix's play has been the most surprising aspect of this team. From watching him over the years, he's always seemed like a jack of many trades but a master of none. Never once could I have imagined him taking games over the way he has this season but it's truly been a pleasure to watch. If he keeps this up, I really think he has a chance to sneak onto some NBA draft boards or at least get a camp invitation or two.
I do have to disagree with Brad though as I believe that depth is a serious issue for this team. It's pretty shocking to me that it hasn't caught up to them yet but Herb Sendek tends to only use a seven man rotation most nights. So I guess in a way, the most surprising thing for me has been that the Devils have been able to get off to such a fantastic start working with a short bench. It really speaks volumes about the energy and intensity that the starters bring on a game-to-game basis.
Your turn, tell us in the comment section below what you believe is the biggest surprise of the ASU basketball season thus far.