As we begin 2014, the Arizona State men's basketball team will begin a new season, the 18-game gauntlet known as Pac-12 conference play. The Sun Devils currently sit at 11-2 and riding a four-game winning streak. The Sun Devils open up conference play Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena against Washingon.
Last season, Jahii Carson and company finished an even 9-9 in conference play. Arizona State was 6-3 in the the first half of conference play before going 3-6 the second half. Last season, the Sun Devils went 0-2 against the Huskies, including a nine-point loss at Wells Fargo last February.
Here is your game preview for Arizona State's conference matchup against Washington.
Time: 8 p.m. EST/6 p.m. MST
Television/Radio: ESPNU/Arizona Sports 620
Arizona State Update
The Sun Devils went 4-1 in the month of December, winning their final four games conference games. Arizona State was perfect in their nonconference slate, except for two losses in the Honda Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. Jahii Carson is averaging 15.3 PPG and 6.3 APG in his last three games.
Junior forward Shaquielle McKissic really thrived in his last three nonconference games. McKissic came off the bench against Grambling State to score 19 points in 19 minutes. Back in the starting lineup against UC Irvine, McKissic put up 18 points, four rebounds and three assists on 6-12 shooting.
The Sun Devils are still trying to work in Brandon Kearney into the rotation. Kearney transferred from Michigan State and became eligible on December 21. In two games, the junior has played just 11 minutes and attempted just two shots.
The Huskies currently sit at 8-5 on the season as Lorenzo Romar attempts to lead his team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. The Huskies have won two in a row after suffering a loss at home to Connecticut on Dec. 22.
Washington is led in scoring by C.J. Wilcox, who is averaging 20.5 PPG and 4.2 RPG this season. Wilcox has scored in double figures in every game this season and has posted over 20 points in six games.
In Washington's five losses, the Huskies are giving up an average of 85.8 PPG, in their eight wins they are allowing 75.1 PPG. Of Washington's five losses, four have come by at least nine points.
Washington also had a difficult time pulling away from teams in the nonconference play. The Huskies beat Long Beach State by three in double overtime, Montana by four, Seattle by 10 and Hartford by six.
Key Matchup: Jermaine Marshall vs. C.J. Wilcox
Wilcox is the cog that turns the Huskies on offense. He attempts an average of 14.5 field goals per game, shooting 45-percent from the field and 89-percent from the free throw line. The senior guard has shot over 40-percent from the field in five of his last six games.
Marshall has become the No. 2 option on offense besides Carson. Marshall averages 15.5 PPG, second to Carson, shooting 46-percent from 3-point territory and and 50-percent from the field. Marshall has scored in double figures in his last five games and will be counted on to provide offense alongside Carson.
Where Marshall is even more crucial is on defense, where he will be asked to guard Wilcox most of the evening. Marshall is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and will have to prove it tonight.
The last time Arizona State defeated Washington was Jan. 8th, 2010, when the Sun Devils were led in points by Rihards Kuksiks. The Sun Devils are 1-9 against the Huskies in the past five seasons. However, Washington continues to be in a rebuilding mode as the Huskies have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. The Huskies are 0-3 this season against teams from a BCS conference and I expect Arizona State to pull out a close victory in its conference opener. Arizona State 82, Washington 76