Arizona State basketball is back as Jahii Carson and company open the 2013/2014 campaign tonight at Wells Fargo Arena against the UMBC Retrievers. Below is your game preview for the Friday night affair.
Tip-off: 6 p.m. MST
Television: Pac-12 Networks
The Retrievers finished last season 8-23 under first-year head coach Aki Thomas. The program has not won double-digit games since the 2008-2009 season. The last three seasons, the Retrievers have combined for just 17 wins. Last year, Thomas took the team over in October and guided UMBC to their best season since 2009.
The Retrievers lost three starters from last year's squad but bring back 6'10 forward Brett Roseboro, who averaged 9.9 PPG and 6.3 RPG in 19 appearances last season. The backcourt is led by Quentin Jones, Joey Getz and Aaron Morgan. Other key returners include sophomore Malik Garner and senior Chase Plummer, who returns as the team's leading scorer at 11.8 PPG.
Arizona State Update
Arizona State fell just short last season of making the NCAA tournament for the second time in the Herb Sendek era. The Sun Devils won 22 games last season, and made it to the second round of the NIT tournament. Arizona State lost Carrick Felix, but the team returns All-Pac-12 guard Jahii Carson and center Jordan Bachynski.
New to the program are guard Jermaine Marshall as well as forwards Brandon Kearney and Shaq McKissic. Marshall comes to Tempe after averaging 15.3 PPG at Penn State. Kearney must sit out the start of the season because of his transfer from Michigan State and McKissic comes to Arizona State from Edmonds JC in Washington.
What to Watch
Perhaps the most intriguing thing to watch tonight will be the different lineups and rotations that coach Sendek uses throughout the night. Just last week, coach Sendek told the media he wasn't sure what his player rotation would look like and most of it would be by trial and error.
Tonight may be part of that trial and error, as the Sun Devils attempt to work new players into the rotation. We know that Carson, Marshall, McKissic, Gilling and Bachynski will start but the bench remains cloudy. Calean Robinson, Eric Jacobson, Richie Edwards and Egor Koulechov will likely be the key contributors off the bench.
This should be a walk in the park for Arizona State. The Sun Devils are clearly the better team on paper and should handle UMBC with relative ease. Look for the backcourt duo of Carson and Marshall to both be in double figures and Jordan Bachynski should dominate inside. Arizona State 88, UMBC 56