World news – ASU men’s basketball is looking for silver linings in the difficult season

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Remy Martin has the option to extend the men’s basketball season in the state of Arizona when the Sun Devils take on Washington state in the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday. (Photo by Alina Nelson / Cronkite News)

TEMPE – For many fans of men’s basketball in Arizona, the state of the Sun Devils in March four months ago probably seemed incomprehensible.

ASU kicked off with a few highly acclaimed recruits in Josh Christopher and Marcus Bagley in the 2020-21 season. Senior Guard Remy Martin returned after finishing second in the Pac-12 in the 2019-20 season. And the Sun Devils ranked 18th in the Associated Press preseason top 25 – the first time ASU has broken that poll since Bobby Hurley was hired as a coach in 2015.

After a regular season of 10- 13 (7-10 conference), ASU enters number 8 in this week’s men’s Pac-12 basketball tournament. The Sun Devils stand in front of the ninth Washington state at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the opening game of the tournament at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

ASU must run the table and win the tournament to receive an automatic NCAA tournament offer if they hope to realize March Madness’s ambitions, that they had four months ago.

More realistically, during a disappointing season, the Sun Devils are stepping into the week looking for silver linings.

With injuries and COVID-19 shutdowns running the season from the start plague to the end, ASU hasn’t played a single game with the entire available roster, and that won’t change during the Pac-12 tournament. The team’s two award-winning newcomers, Christopher and Bagley, won’t be ready for the tournament, Hurley said.

Even so, the Sun Devils chugged along, and Hurley felt a positive outlook from them as they prepared to go to Las Driving Vegas where they’re hoping to extend a season that started with so much promise.

« I feel like I’ve noticed a positive attitude in practice today – a confident manner towards the guys – and certainly we’re not just here to take a trip to Vegas, « Hurley said at a Zoom press conference on Tuesday. « I just don’t feel like this is the vibe I’m getting from the team right now. »

On an individual level, the Sun Devils got some good news on Tuesday when Martin was in for the second time in his ASU career The All-Pac-12 First Team was named, underscoring the impact it had on the program.

Martin’s contribution during a difficult season is for ASU one of the biggest positive things of the year for sure. On February 27, he ended what was probably his last game in the Desert Financial Arena with a starting jumper who had 0.4 seconds left and sealed an ASU victory over Washington State.

Martin did not rule out the possibility However, to take advantage of the additional year of eligibility granted to all NCAA winter sports students this year due to the pandemic, said he hopes to get a shot in the NBA after this season.

« I’m a man who always lives in the present, « said Martin. « I never look to the future, just live in the present and hopefully try to get an NBA shot somewhere or whatever is the best option for me. » If it doesn’t happen to me, I’ll be happy to come back and play. I just love to play here. Anyway, the Sun Devils will need more of the same production from Martin if they hope to make a run in this week’s Pac-12 tournament. Hurley said Martin demonstrated his ability to get hot this year. He’s had a stretch of eight games in a row and nine out of ten in which he scored more than 20 points. « You are going to need him and some other people to really get it rolling this week, » said Hurley . « We have the firepower to do this without Josh (Christopher) and Marcus (Bagley). »

ASU expects Kimani Lawrence and Jaelen House, the second security guard, to continue their upward trend towards the end of the season. Lawrence’s presence on the boards and House’s contributions on the defensive end of the floor were revelations in the Sun Devils that improved the course late in the conference schedule.

Lawrence scored 21 points and 20 in the game against Washington on February 25th Rebounds – an 80-72 ASU victory. It was his second double-double in a row and the first 20-point / 20-rebound game by an ASU player in over two decades.

House, on the other hand, has made a steady contribution on the defensive and in the absence of Josh Christopher who fell out with a lower leg injury seen many more minutes. House leads the team with 1.5 steals per game and has collected 20 steals in their last 10 games. And offensively, House set a season high of 13 points on Thursday in Colorado.

In order for everything to come together at the crucial point of the season, ASU has to produce from above and below what is left of its roster.

« We’re not giving up our season, » Lawrence said recently. « I know we are understaffed, but there is still a lot of basketball to play and we still have a chance to play a full season. » And that’s the goal. So we just have to play one game at a time. « 

James Johnston expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism in 2021. Johnston is working for Cronkite Sports this spring.

Alina Nelson is a sports journalist and photographer expected to graduate in August 2021. Nelson , who has seven years of photography experience, is working for Cronkite Sports this spring.

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