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ASU Basketball: Pac-12 opener versus Utah preview

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Will conference play go better this year?

Andrew Palla/House of Sparky

Utah

Record: 6-6

VS ASU last year: 1-1

NET Ranking: 143rd

Points scored: 73.5 (205th of 353)

Points against: 72.9 (214th of 353)

Last season, Arizona State came into conference play with an undefeated record as everyone knows. It took until their third Pac-12 game to earn their first Pac victory, that win came in Salt Lake City over the Utah Utes. Utah got their revenge in Wells Fargo Arena with a 80-77 overtime win when the Sun Devils were struggling in Pac-12 play.

Despite finishing third in the conference last year, Utah was picked to finish eighth in this year’s preseason polls. That is due to the Utes losing three of their top four scorers with Justin Bibbins, David Collette and Tyler Rawson graduated. Larry Krystkowiak has got five straight 20-plus win seasons from his teams, but this feels like the season that it comes to an end. None of Utah’s six wins are against impressive competition, and they have losses to Hawaii, Minnesota, Northwestern, Nevada, Kentucky and BYU. The closest margin of those defeats is their nine-point loss to Minnesota in their second game of the season.

All the numbers point to ASU winning, they’re also at home. Although, you could’ve said the same thing about the game last weekend against Princeton before ASU lost by one. For the Sun Devils to avoid the rollercoaster they experienced in 2018, they need to create a forumla.

The Sun Devils offense was been bad, awful, dreadful lately. They need better first halves or a way to make sure they shoot better from outside and convert more of their attempts at the rim. Finding a way to get freshman Luguentz Dort, the Sun Devils’ leading scorer, should also be included into the equation. Dort over the past four games is shooting 9-for-45 from the field. The game before the start of the lack of makes, Dort was 9-for-19 against Nevada.

After the loss to Princeton, forward Zylan Cheatham pointed out that he believed ASU’s spacing has led to the missed layups. Dort has gotten to the rim plenty of times, but can’t finish the drive. If the Sun Devils can get Dort back on track and open the floor a bit more, better days should be ahead for ASU.