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ASU Basketball: House of Sparky preseason roundtable

Here’s how we think the season is going down.

Our panel

Josiah Destin - House of Sparky Co-Managing Editor (@JDestinsports)

Max Madden - House of Sparky Co-Managing Editor (@Max_Madden)

Matthew Tonis - House of Sparky Staff Writer (@Tonis_The_Tiger)

Blaine McCormick - House of Sparky Multimedia Reporter (@Blaine_Mc8)

Over/Under

Categories Tonis Madden Destin McCormick
Categories Tonis Madden Destin McCormick
23 wins for ASU Under Under PUSH Under
ASU finishes fifth in Pac-12 Over Under Under Over
16 PPG for Shannon Evans Over Over Over Over
Bobby Hurley gets ejected twice Under Over PUSH Over
8 RPG for Romello White Over Over Under Under
5 APG for Remy Martin Under Under Over Under
Kodi Justice shoots .415 from 3-point range Under Under Over Over
ASU averages 80 PPG Over Under Over Under

Individual Awards

Categories Tonis Madden Destin McCormick
Categories Tonis Madden Destin McCormick
Leader in points Shannon Evans Tra Holder Shannon Evans Shannon Evans
Leader in assists Tra Holder Shannon Evans Remy Martin Tra Holder
Leader in rebounds Romello White Romello White Romello White Romello White
Leader in blocks Romello White Romello White De'Quon Lake De'Quon Lake
Freshman of the year Kimani Lawrence Remy Martin Remy Martin Remy White
Newcomer of the year Kimani Lawrence Remy Martin Remy Martin Kimani Lawrence
Most Valuable Player Tra Holder Shannon Evans Shannon Evans Shannon Evans

Q: What are the Sun Devils’ chances at getting to the NCAA tournament?

Destin: Given that the Sun Devils were predicted to finish sixth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Sun Devils may be able to make the tournament solely with that finish. While the Pac-12 had just four teams in NCAA tournament in a very top-heavy 2017, the conference had seven teams in the tournament in 2016. Building a great preseason record with resume building wins will be key because ASU may be right on the bubble.

Madden: I don’t see it happening this year. The Sun Devils are much better than last year and Hurley is a great coach that is truly building toward something, but to have success with at least two freshman starters they have to be elite-level talents like at Kentucky, Villanova, Kansas, etc. I think ASU finishes around the 20-win mark to set up for a great season for Martin, Dort, Bragg, Edwards, Lawrence and White to lead Arizona State to the postseason in 2019.

Tonis: If everything falls right for the Sun Devils, I wouldn’t be surprised at a run to the NCAA Tournament. In the era of one-and-dones, experience is what consistently wins in college basketball and the Sun Devils have three leading the backcourt. Teams around the conference have taken a step or two back and ASU has some momentum from picking up a very good recruiting class. The two don’t necessarily correlate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a top-four finish in the Pac-12 from this team.

McCormick: This year I feel like is another rebuilding year for Arizona State. Yes they have better recruits this year, but I️ think that this is a stretch. I️ concur with opinions that they will finish around 20 wins but they will miss the tournament this year but will make it next year.

Q: How many games will ASU win in its non conference schedule?

Destin: Eight, which would make ASU 8-4 going into conference play. Kansas, Kansas State, St. John’s, San Diego State, Vanderbilt and even UC Irvine are some potential losses to point at. Then, there’s the potential of the Sun Devils becoming upset. Last season, ASU played then-No. 18 Purdue, then-No. 9 Creighton and then-No. 1 Kentucky. This season, the No. 4 Jayhawks are the only ranked team on the preseason schedule.

Madden: I have seven on my board. ASU is going up against some really underrated programs in San Diego State, UC Irvine, Kansas State and Vanderbilt. The Sun Devils clearly have more talent than SJU, Idaho State, NAU, SFU, Longwood and Pacific, but they haven’y proven anything yet in terms of many picking them to beat occasional tournament teams.

Tonis: Give me 9-3. The only game I see them definitely losing the matchup at Kansas on Dec. 10, but, depending on Romello White’s availability, this is a very talented roster. ASU’s biggest challenges a season ago were rebounding and depth, both of which have been addressed this offseason. The Sun Devils didn’t necessarily impressed during exhibition play, but I think things get fixed before the marquee games.

McCormick: This season presents an easier non-Conference.͟ schedule than last season as they have to face only one ranked team in No. 4 Kansas. That said, the other opponents should not be taken lightly. San Diego State is known for basketball and Kansas State can be a dangerous opponent as well. I️ say ASU wins seven but there could be an upset alert here or there.

Q: What is the most intriguing non conference matchup?

Destin: San Diego State. The Aztecs are ready for a bounce back season, as they return their top three scorers, with two of them being seniors Malike Pope and Trey Kell. SDSU lost 74-63 to ASU on its home turf last season. Both teams are wiser and better than last season. This should be a close one.

Madden: I’ll roll with the Wildcats of Kansas State. Most outlets have KSU hovering around the 45-55 rank in the country, which is right around where ASU needs to get to get to the big dance. The Wildcats have a terrific defense and the dangerous shooters to match. It’ll be a big test of two fairly-evenly matched teams in Las Vegas on a Thursday night.

Tonis: Fine, I’ll bite. It’s Kansas. If Kansas is on your schedule, the Jayhawks are the most intriguing. It doesn’t matter who you are, how you matchup against a perennial title contender can make or break a team’s confidence, carrying forward through the season. It’s a relatively early test, but it’s a very important one.

McCormick: Kansas. The history of success that the Jayhawks serves as a fun matchup. It may not be a close scoring game but in all honesty, this could be fun. Plus the fact that Sam Cunliffe transferred there from Arizona State just adds to the drama...dun dun dun.

Q: Who is a breakout player this season?

Destin: Remy Martin looks like everything ASU needs. Him being a freshman, the No. 1 chore on his to do list should be to get Shannon Evans, Tra Holder and Kodi Justice as many points as possible. Then, revive the ASU frontcourt. Personally, I’ve got him with well over five assists per game.

Madden: This is Kodi Justice’s year. No more Torian Graham to take away shots and no one-year-left mentality for the local kid. Justice was extremely effective offensively and a sharpshooter from deep, he just didn’t have the volume he needed to be a star. If ASU wants to get into the postseason — beyond the Pac-12 tourney in Vegas — Justice needs to be aggressive.

Tonis: Whenever he gets on the floor, Romello White is a difference-maker. ASU desperately needed clutch rebounding last year, but could never get it consistently. If White lives up to expectations along with Vitaliy Shibel, then that will be much less of an issue in 2017-18.

McCormick: Shannon Evans, without question. Being his senior season, he’s going to want to go out of Tempe with a bang. His chemistry with Tra Holder and Kodi Justice was felt last season and I️ think that it’ll explode. Evans brings a fighting energy to the team and the stable leadership that had been lacking in the team’s previous seasons. His three-point numbers will rise and the assists will boost too. With weapons like Holder, Justice and Remy Martin, lots of buckets are in ASU’s future.

Q: Where do the Sun Devils need the most help?

Destin: Last season the front court was not existent. This season, it’s here, ASU just needs to learn how to use it. De’Quon Lake, Romello White, Kimani Lawrence and Vitaly Shibel can all be great threats on both sides of the floor. It’ll be interesting to see how they gel on the court as first-year players with the rest of the Sun Devils.

Madden: It’s a pretty solid all-around unit for ASU. The biggest challenge the Sun Devils are facing is minute-management. Last season Hurley threw the same five or six players out on the court for what seemed like the entire game sometimes, including playing Evans and Holder well over 30 minutes per contest. It’s never a bad thing to have a deeper roster, bur Hurley will have to figure out how to manage all of his new talent without disrupting the rhythm of the team. Should be interesting to watch.

Tonis: With Torian Graham gone, the Sun Devils need to find a go-to scorer when things get hard for everyone else. Graham took the pressure off the rest of the roster, taking and making tough shots seemingly whenever ASU needed it, allowing the rest of the guards to operate normally. Shannon Evans looked like he could play the part with his 50-point game against Arizona Christian, but most of those points came with the game in hand. If ASU can’t find that creator, things could go awry offensively.

McCormick: This team shows a lot of potential for this year but the final minutes will present the biggest challenge, especially last minute rebounds. The Sun Devils have some height now, which they struggled with last year, it’s just a question of facing last minute rebounds. The big men are young, and college basketball is a different game. If faced with a close score, the Sun Devils are going to have to focus on wrangling in the ball. Scoring isn’t an issue for this team but the final minute can make or break a game.