There is immediate reason for optimism in Tempe. Like right now. Maybe this isn’t an NCAA tournament team, but when has ASU ever been a tournament team? Well, funny you should ask: the Devils have mustered just five invites since the ‘85 expansion (or roughly one-sixth of rival Arizona). But if we’re playing the relatable numbers game, ASU returns four starters from a team that finished tied for fifth. They introduce Bobby Hurley – the NCAA’s All-Time leading assists man – to Wells and have already received a visit from Grant Hill. And even if James Harden’s Adidas contract is bigger than ASU’s, you can still wear your Jordans.
A brief history of inexperienced coaches taking Pac-12 jobs:
- Jay John – Oregon State
- Experience – 0 seasons
- Success – 5+ seasons, 72-97, 0 NCAAs
- Todd Bozeman – California
- Expeirence – 0 seasons
- Success – 4 seasons, 63-35, 3 NCAAs, lots of asterisks
- Steve Lavin – UCLA
- Experience – 0 seasons
- Success – 7 seasons, 145-78, 6 NCAAs
- Tony Bennett – WSU
- Experience – 0 seasons
- Success – 3 seasons, 69-33, 3 NCAAs
- Johnny Dawkins – Stanford
- Experience – 0 seasons
- Success – 7 seasons, 141-100, 1 NCAA
- Tad Boyle – Colorado
- Experience – 4 seasons, 46-56, 0 NCAA
- Success – 5 seasons, 108-67, 3 NCAAs
- Andy Enfield – USC
- Experience – 2 seasons, 41-28, 1 NCAA
- Success – 2 seasons, 23-41, 0 NCAA
- Bobby Hurley – Arizona State
- Experience – 2 seasons, 42-20, 1 NCAA
- Success – ???????????
Connor Pelton is a long time friend of the program. I use the term colloquially because I don’t really know how long he’s befriended PacHoops. What I do know, however, is that Connor is a helluva Rush the Court contributor, a House of Sparky staple, and a lifelong Beaver. So with the latter (lattermost?) of Connor’s areas of expertise headed to the McKale Center, I thought we’d let CP scratch the curiosity itch.
My questions. Connor’s answers:
What is Oregon State missing in Victor Robbins?
Look, you know my stance on this institution. My intro will therefore take a very matter-o-fact tone. Only later will I decide whether or not to let you fill in the blanks or if I color it for you.
Herb’s contract was extended on the heels of beating Arizona and a return to the NCAA tournament. Herb achieved the tourney invite by playing the fastest brand of basketball he’s ever coached. Not coincidentally, last year’s team was also the best defensive team (by national ranking of AdjD) Herb’s had in Tempe. Their offense was the second most productive (109 ORtg) he’s built in Wells Fargo. That tempo was motored by Jahii Carson. That defense was anchored by dPOY, Jordan Bacnynski. That offense was stabilized by Jermaine Marshall and the vaunted Jahishall (a three pointer assisted by Jahii – and while I can’t tell you exactly how many Jahishalls were made, 57% of Marshall’s shots were threes, 92% of those that he made were assisted, 62% of Jahii’s assists resulted in a three – that’s a lot of Jahishalls). Those three are gone. What remains? The Guilty Remnant Cult.
Why I Love Them:
On this day of St. Valentine I have neither brilliance or wit for you. I’m simply going to rampage through bullet points of facts surrounding tonight’s Arizona- Arizona State game. Hooray love because I espouse lots of it in the subsequent bullets (a fitting organizational tool for such a game):
- 95/110, 98/115 – These are the offensive efficiency numbers for Carrick Felix and Jermaine Marshall in their season without then with Jahii Carson
- 2/14/1912 – Arizona becomes a state! The belief is that the name Arizona was derived from the O’odaham name alĭ ṣonak which meant “little spring.” This subsequently was Major League Baseball’s rationale for moving Spring Training to the Valentine State.
- 36%/4.6/4.3/0/3 – That is Jordan Bachynski’s FG%, ppg, rpg, apg, and bpg against Kaleb Tarczewski. His normal numbers in the last two seasons? 59%, 10.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 0.3apg, 3.8bpg. Kaleb might own somebody?
- Local Talent – Both Nick Johnson and Jahii Carson are from Phoenix. They grew up playing there together. They’ve faced off just once in Tempe. Johnson scored 19 points, Carson scored 22, and the Wildcats won by 17.
- +55 – Point differential in Arizona’s favor across the last three Territorial Cup games
- 2-7 – Herb Sendek’s record against Arizona since Sean Miller became the coach in Tucson
- 13 vs 9 – ASU has more all-time tournament wins (13) than Arizona has Sweet-16 wins (9).
- This –
Yesterday I wrote about the Pac-12 POY race. I introduced some new names and addressed the progress of some of the serious contenders. I even explained why a few guys would have great years but won’t win the award.
Jahii Carson is going to win the Pac-12 POY award.
Maybe it’s the Holiday Egg Nog and the spirit of hyperbole in this jolly time of family, giving, and caring. A Happy Hanukkah Eve to you and yours. But Carson does things on a basketball court that the other kids can’t. Quickly with the numbers: He plays has scored or assisted on 46% of the Sun Devils’ made baskets. He’s 5’10” and he’s half their offense. And when he’s not on the floor:
Jahii Carson might be the most important player in country to his team. Arizona St has just 1 basket since he went out with his 2nd foul
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) November 26, 2013
Now I’ve already once mentioned hyperbole and I already made a prediction that he’d be the POY. We’re just 170 words into this party and that’s already transpired. But Carson is doing it. Doing everything. And on Monday night he did it again, leading ASU to their first win over a ranked opponent since January 8, 2010. One week after that win, in Tempe, I’d run my best Half-Marathon: 1:37:22. There’s no correlation between the two events, but note it has been a long time since ASU beat a ranked opponent.
Hell, with Jahii’s latest 23 point, 5 assist and >50% shooting effort, he made this happen:
— Dawn Rogers (@Rogers4ASU) November 26, 2013
You guys, I know Herb’s weird but that’s him doing what can only be described as a variation of the dirty bird – perhaps the unkempt fowl? – after a November win. November, not March. A home November win against a team that scored 35 points in a 40 minute basketball game.
Carson has people wildly excited about a program that’s had their coach on the hot seat for 2.5 years. As mentioned, it was the Devils’ first victory over a ranked opponent in 1418 days and even Buzz Williams might dance to that (though I doubt it).
I’m not going to dive into the stats on why Carson is so fantastic. You can already see and read and hear about that in a multitude of other places. Yesterday I asked Jeff Eisenberg if he thought we could put Carson in the National POY conversation. He wouldn’t bite but if the Devils start to become for real, rattle off a win against another ranked opponent this week in Creighton and garner themselves a top-25 ranking they can maintain, I say “Why no Jahii?”
But before we wrap this party, I’ll advocate for the Devil momentarily (I realize the irony in using that idiom here as any article that talks about how great an ASU student-athlete is intrinsically advocating for the Devil), he hasn’t won the big game just yet. He and the Devils have won just one top-25 game with the opportunity to do it again on Thursday.
I’ll be paying attention if I’m not in a turkey and pie coma. And everyone else should be, too. Maybe it’s the holiday hyperbole, but Jahii Carson is your Pac-12 POY.
The state of Arizona has not produced a wealth of basketball talent. Just 19 NBA players prepped in the Grand Canyon State, Greg Smith the most recent and Sean Elliott the most successful. Mike Bibby, born in Phoenix and attended HS at Shadow Mountain, played the most NBA games of any Zonie, 1001. Arizona produced pros have played 125 cumulative seasons in The League. Comparatively, The Palmetto State (South Carolina) has produced 21 pros playing 170 seasons. Two additional pros, 45 mores seasons. By that sophomoric arithmetic, Arizonans generally aren’t that great of hoopsters. Those nineteen pros rank just 35th in America, ahead of Utah’s 17 (Shawn Bradley!) and behind the aforementioned 21 from SC (Jesus Shuttlesworth) and West Virginia (Logo).
So when players from the state move on to play Division 1 basketball, it’s a significant accomplishment. And when players in the state start scoring 40 points in a game or flirting with triple doubles, we’re on to something special.
Something special is what former Phoenix-area prep stars Jahii Carson and Nick Johnson are doing. Hailing from the same state as me, they chose to compete for rival universities and they’re currently crushing the college basketball scene.Let’s start with Carson, the riquickulous one, who almost single handedly defeated the Runnin’ Rebels Tuesday night. He scored 40 points and dished 7 assists. He played 39 minutes and in case you needed a refresher, college basketball games are 40 minutes long. He shot 64% afield and bucketed 1.02 points per minute. He’s a measly 5’10” and made 14 of his sixteen shots AT THE RIM. Do you realize that UNLV has blocked the ninth most shots in the nation (30)? That their 7.5 blocks per game rank fifteenth nationally? The Rebels saw Carson driving the lane and they were licking their chops, ready to put Carson’s shot into XS. Instead, they’re licking their wounds as Carson tear dropped his way – and how beautiful a shot is that floater? – to 40 points and the Devil’s first 5-0 start since Arizona was one year into 27 consecutive NCAA tournaments. What Carson has done in Tempe is nothing short of angelic. On this, his farewell tour, Carson is about to make sure we won’t soon forget his name. He’ll be remembered in the same breath as Fat Lever, Eddie House, and James Harden.
But like Lever before him, he’ll be special because of his Arizona ties. Lever prepped in Tucson, at Pueblo High School. The same HS I never lost to as a starting baseball player and where I got a 4 on a botched administration of the AP Spanish test (though honestly it could’ve been a 3). He’s a legend in the state.
And while Nick Johnson spent a portion of his prep years at Findlay in Las Vegas, make no mistake that he has strong ties as an Arizonan. His father is Joe Johnson who famously held the world record for dunking on the highest rim (11’7”) and attended ASU. Nick grew up in Gilbert before honing his skills at prep school. He now finds himself the centerpiece of a Final Four contender. His role, a changing one according to Sean Miller, is to be the leader of that team. High stakes for anyone, let alone an Arizona prep star. Allow me some other names who’ve held similar roles: Mike Bibby, Sean Elliott, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson. Just one of those players never attended a Final Four (Frye) and we’re not going to talk about it. Every one of them was a lottery pick. That’s the sort of rare and special territory Johnson now finds himself in.
On Tuesday night, Johnson continued his onslaught of Arizona’s non-conference slate. And while it’s not been the most impressive competition, Johnson has been the Wildcats’ rock. Though it’s really too early to try and quantify his season, I’ll qualify it by citing his 23 points inside a raucous and hostile Viejas Arena. Early in the game Johnson squared up and hit a deep three pointer. Across most possessions, this might have been considered ill advised. But I thought it served as a message to his team. That it was OK for them to compete and that he had their backs. Sure the bucket may have come well before the first media timeout, but it resonated across his bench: Game on.
That’s Johnson’s new role, while Carson’s remains about the same: to be really damn good. They’re both fine ball players who grew up playing with and against one another. As the adage goes, you’ve got to play the best to be the best. Today they find that they’re the best after years of Middle school, playground, AAU, high school, and now college competition. Challenging one another to get better and better.
And that drive and competition has perhaps left something of a legacy. Jaron Hopkins out of Dobson High (2013) garnered big offers before winding up at Tad boyle’s blossoming program in Boulder. Michael Humphrey’s (Sunnyslope, #80 2014) is a big out of PHX and is headed to Stanford with fellow Zonie, Dorian Pickins (Pinnacle, 2014). Meanwhile, Zylan Cheatham (South Mountain, #68 2014) is headed to SDSU.
But that’s the future and we can keep an eye on that for another time.
For now, let’s enjoy what Johnson and Carson are doing. It doesn’t happen often.
We prognosticated and assumed and ran with things that coaches or scouts told us before the season started. That’s well and good but now’s the time to begin the accountability train. Let’s take a look at a few thoughts I (we?) want to keep an eye on as the season progresses and what we’re learning about them.
Arizona in transition –
All the pre-season long we’ve glowed about Arizona’s need and ability to get out into transition. That they’d struggle from distance but that the team’s true strength came in the form of defensive length and versatility which would lead to easy transition buckets. #LOBPUEBLO. So I took to hoop-math.com, paid the more-than-worth-it-$15 subscription to discover that Arizona ranks 117th in % of total FGA in transition. That seemed low. They’re getting just 21% of their shots in transition. The Cats are, however, pretty damn efficient at these buckets, dropping a 73.4% eFG (16th in the nation). #LOBPUEBLO. Anecdotally, Arizona sure seemed to get into transition last night against Fairleigh Dickinson in the most lopsided Wildcat win since Arizona’s coach had white hair – and was a good. Against FDU, the Wildcats took 26.5% of their shots (18) in transition, or slightly above the D-1 average. NOTE: This is not cause for concern. It’s just a notice that perhaps Arizona’s strength isn’t necessarily in transition. Or it isn’t their happy place or primary means of points. Whatever the case, Arizona seems to be effectively using its size, taking just 22% of their shots from beyond the arc and have the 14th best offensive rebounding percentage.
The pace of play in Westwood and Tempe –
Steve Alford’s Bruins have jumped out to a blistering 72.8 possessions per game. That’s 57th best in the nation and the fastest UCLA team since Bruins Nation on the Alford hiring. For further context, only Howland’s last team outpaced the rest of the nation; playing 3.6 more possessions than the average D-1 team. Every other Howland season played below the D-1 average pace including his best team, 2008, which operated at 65.6 vs. 67. We all knew he was slow and many complained that Alford was too despite a UCLA coaching hunt for a “different style.” Thus far – and I’m acutely aware of the infancy of this season – Steve’s baby blue baby bears are burnin’ the floor and Kyle Anderson is comfortable at the point.
Meanwhile, in the land of Herb, he’s been talking about picking up the pace since he had back-to-back seasons without reaching the teens in wins. Last season was really the beginning of it but did you know the Sun Devils were only average in the tempo department? The 2013 D-1 average was 65.9 while the Herbivores got 65.8 possessions. But improvement – increased pace in this case – is relative to the Herb system, right? Let’s look. In his previous six Tempe seasons, the Sen Devils put up an average tempo of 61.9. In 2013 they jumped that number by 6% to get to the Jahii-led, blistering tempo of 65.8. That’s significant and this year they’ve upped the anti to 71.2 possessions. Perhaps Herb’s 3-12-24 is working?
Assimilation of the transfer Duck –
I’m a big proponent of keeping local talent local around and so when Herb Sendek secured a commitment from Jahii Carson – and then much later received his NCAA clearance – it was a big. Huge for a program that went 12-19 the year before Carson enrolled and 10-21 the year he rode the pine. Once he saw the court, the Sun Devils were a bubble team right up until Vegas and finished 22-13. Need further proof that the kid’s a program changer? Carrick Felix’s ORtg without Jahii: 95.1. With Jahii? 110.4 and Felix was drafted by an National Basketball Association team. Maybe you’ve heard of that league. Jahii Carson changes lives.
Why I love them: Carson is the obvious reason to think highly of the Devils. He’s fully deserving of any print or voice he’s getting as an All-American. And have you been following any of these NCAA rules changes? Of course not. I did for whatever reason, however, and now allow me to synopsize with a quote from Bobby D (Pac-12 Coordinator of Officials):
“We are probably going to see more whistles than we have in the past.”
Well shit. And he quoted this in regards to hand checking rules and do you know who often draws the most hand checks? Riquickulous water bugs who blow by their defenders and already get to the line at a 42.4% clip. Expect the fastest guard in the conference, if not nation, to benefit from these rules changes. Of course Jahii is only 5’10” so he’s not always going to get a shot off. He’s gotta find someone to dish to, right? Enter Penn State graduate transfer, Jermaine Marshall. The numbers suggest that Marshall is a jump shooter – he took just 15% of his shots last year at the rim. Then, on all those shots he’s taking of the jumping variety, a high percentage of those are being assisted. Translation: Jermaine moves off the ball, gets open, hits shot. The off ball focus (also addressed by Bobby D) should behoove such a player as he runs around screens unimpeded by superfluous bumps and grabs. Between Jordan Bachynski on the block and Carson, Marshall should see plenty of open looks from the perimeter; a shot he’s proven he can make.
Why I hate them: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m really not certain these Sun Devils are going to be able to defend at the level they need to. Carrick Felix was a huge defensive asset, capable of guarding up and down a lineup. In his stead, Jonathan Giling’s role grows and so too will his defensive assignments. Last year was Herb Sendek’s 4th worst defense – 97.4 AdjD – in his coaching career; Herb’s only real comments about defense – the cornerstone of his coaching resume – is that the new rule changes “could really have almost a revolutionary effect on the game.” Now I pulled that quote out of media day when Hyperbole Herb saw everything on the most macro level imaginable. But when I hear a man vaunted for his man-to-man defensive genius call certain rule changes “revolutionary,” I hear a man about to focus on speeding up his offense.
Stat you should know:
That’s the number of shots that Jordan Bachynski needs to block this season to become the Pac-12’s all-time leading shot blocker. He’s blocked 181 to this point – good for 11th in conference history. Last season the big Canadian dismissed 120 would be buckets. A repeat performance and he stands alone as the Prime Minister of Prevention.
“But we went through a period of time when we had more NBA draft picks than any conference in the country. We were spitting out lottery picks like nickels … our talent level is as good as it has been in a long time.” – Hyperbole Herb on the health of Pac-12 hoops
Outlook: I think the Devils have some really nice pieces and a relatively balanced roster. They’ll introduce to us a pretty good fill-in for Carrick Felix when MSU transfer Brandan Kearney becomes available during the second semester. And with one of the nation’s best players, you really can’t count the Devils too far out of things. Hell, Matt Norlander picked them to finish third. I’m not that high on them but Herb has pieced together a pretty decent little ball club. This year it’s been noted that he’s sitting on a pretty warm seat for past performances (see: 2010-12) and we haven’t seen the Devil dance since James Harden donned the maroon and piss gold. Are they going to be good enough to dance? JAHII WILL DANCE IN HIS FINAL COLLEGE SEASON (I’m going to regret that later). For the first time in a long time, the Sun Devils are playing a non-conference slate that’s a touch better than cupcake (@UNLV, Marquette, Creighton) and, because, Jahii.
With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12′s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
David Bowers is a freelance writer and general expert on the sporting scene across the state of Arizona. His work can be found on his own blog, DavidABowers.com and as a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and Best College Tailgate.
Arizona State’s Carrick Felix is the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player:
Carrick Felix entered his senior season with something to prove.
The hometown product from Millennium High School in Goodyear, Ariz., just west of Phoenix was not recruited to play Division I basketball after averaging 19.7 points and 13 rebounds per game in his high school career.
He signed with the College of Southern Idaho in 2008 and received a medical redshirt in his first season. The 2009-10 season saw Felix average 14.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game at Southern Idaho and earned him a spot on the Sun Devils roster after the departure of standouts James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph.
Felix struggled to make an impact in the 2010-11 season, seeing action in 30 games, but only getting the start in eight. He averaged a mere 4.6 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. He shot a paltry 39-percent from the field and 20-percent from beyond the arc. The Sun Devils won 22 games that year but lost in the first round of the NIT, an embarrassing end to a promising season.
The 2011-12 season was an outright disaster for the Sun Devils. Their record of 10-21 was one of the worst in a long time and Carrick Felix was the second-leading scorer behind Trent Lockett. Felix’s 10.5 points and four boards per game were an improvement, but nowhere near what head coach Herb Sendek had hoped to see in the junior wing that started all but two games.
Felix graduated with a B.S. in Communications in the spring of 2012 and was accepted into the Master’s of Liberal Studies program in the summer. Heading into the 2012-13 season, there was a new attitude or swagger in Tempe. The freshman phenom, Jahii Carson was academically cleared to play and there were two new assistant coaches with NBA pedigrees in Eric Musselman and Larry Greer on the sidelines.
In two seasons at Arizona State, Felix averaged 7.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He shot 41-percent from the field and 28-percent from three-point territory. He also had zero career double-doubles, this season, he recorded three in a one-week span.
After the 2012-13 regular season, he led the Pac-12 with 12 double-doubles and nine in-conference. His 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds combo per game are second best in the Pac-12 behind Stanford’s Dwight Powell with 15.6 points and 8.8 boards.
Felix finished the season in the top 15 of six categories in the Pac-12 including No. 6 in steals and No. 7 in rebounds. His field-goal percentage jumped to 51-percent and his 3-point shooting improved to 36-percent. He started all 31 games and led the Devils in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds and steals. His 14.2 points and 34 blocks were second best on the team as well. He scored in double digits in 25 games this season and 20 or more in seven games including 22 in his final regular season game against rival Arizona.
The numbers are astounding and Felix was named to the second team All-Pac-12 as well as the exclusive Pac-12 All-Defense team with teammate Jordan Bachynski.
The 6’6”, 196 lb. guard/forward had a bumpy road to begin his college basketball career, but he peaked at the best time possible. If Felix does not get picked up in the 2013 NBA Draft, he has the talent and skill to play in Europe or the D-League to prove that he can play for the NBA and I am sure wherever he goes will be better that southern Idaho.