LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The dust has settled on the Pac-12 basketball season, leaving only the conference tournament for teams to make their lasting marks on the season. After starting Pac-12 play 0-4, the Sun Devils won nine of their final 14 conference games to earn the fifth seed in the conference tournament.
Meeting Herb Sendek and squad in the first round will be the USC Trojans, who for the second straight year finished last in the conference. However, in their only meeting of the season, USC gave the Sun Devils all they could handle in Tempe, losing 64-59. Below is your full game preview.
Tipoff: 2:40 p.m. PT (approximately, depending on finish of first game)
Television/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/ESPN Phoenix 620
Once again, Andy Enfield's squad comes to Las Vegas as the 12th seed in the conference tournament. Last season, they fell to fifth-seeded Colorado 59-56 in Vegas. USC won just three conference games this season, in their last 10 games, the Trojans are just 2-8. USC lost nine straight games from Jan. 11 to Feb. 11 and the Trojans struggle to put complete games together.
USC is led in points by UNLV transfer Kevin Reinhardt, who averages 12.4 points per game. Reinhardt missed the game against ASU the first time around this season because he was sent home after the Arizona game for violation of team rules. Sophomore Nikola Jovanovic is averaging 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. USC's three conference victories each have come by more than 10 points, while eight of their 15 conference losses have come by single digits.
The Sun Devils come into the Pac-12 Tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season. ASU has won six of their last nine games including victories over Arizona, Stanford and UCLA. The Sun Devils had Shaquielle McKissic and Tra Holder earn All-Pac-12 honors a few days ago. McKissic was named Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 and Holder earned a spot on the conference's All-Freshman team.
The emergence of the freshman point guard has been a major part of this team's second half resurgence. Holder is averaging 10.6 points and 5.0 assists per game over his last 12 games. He has stepped up since ASU lost guard Kodi Justice for the season.
Keys to the Game
1. Start Fast: Last year, the Sun Devils fell to Stanford by 21 points in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. They started the game missing their first six shots and fell behind Stanford 9-0. They never recovered from that deficit. It is important for ASU to have a better start.
The Sun Devils were the only team playing today that did not hold a practice yesterday at the MGM Grand. Even though they practiced before they left for Vegas, they will be playing in a new arena with a new layout. ASU needs a fast start.
2. Stay Out of Foul Trouble: Savon Goodman and Eric Jacobsen both have a knack for getting into foul trouble. It has been something that Jacobsen has struggled with throughout his entire career. The Sun Devils are not deep in the frontcourt, Goodman is one of the best scorers on the team and Jacobsen is the best post defender. Goodman and Jacobsen have both shown improvement in that area as of late, each playing with four fouls for over 13 minutes against Stanford
3. Take Care of the Ball: Turnovers plagued the Sun Devils in the early part of the season, and it is a reason why ASU lost so many close games. The Sun Devils will start three players who will be playing in their first Pac-12 tournament, including both guards. It will be important for ASU to limit turnovers, especially in the second half.
Prediction: ASU 73, USC 67