Getting to know: Arizona State basketball
Off to the program’s first 8-0 start since 1974, Arizona State has been one of the top surprises throughout college basketball. Ranked No. 16, it’s the first time ASU has entered the Associated Press poll since the 2008-09 season.
Highlighted by a high-powered offense, the Sun Devils have picked up wins against San Diego State, Kansas State and Xavier leading into Sunday’s matchup against Kansas (1 p.m., ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Just with them coming off the loss to Washington, I know they've had some really stiff, tough practices and I know coach (Bill) Self has motivated them,'' ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "And then you have Allen (Fieldhouse) and the advantage that that building is, it's going to be something for our players to experience.”
In the preseason Pac-12 poll, Arizona State was picked to finish sixth, returning three starters.
Fun fact: According to Stats Inc., Arizona State was the first Pac-12 team to score 90 points in six straight games since at least 1996. The Sun Devils average 91.4 points per game.
Series history: Kansas leads 5-4. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in 2003 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Kirk Heinrich scored 24 points in a 108-76 win.
BREAKING DOWN ARIZONA STATE
No. 0 — G Tra Holder | 6-1, 180, sr.
One of the most dangerous scorers in the Pac-12, Holder leads Arizona State with 20.3 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting. He’s made 45 percent of his attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocked down 85 percent of his free throws.
Holder, who scored 40 points earlier this season against Xavier, ranks 13th on the school’s all-time leading scorer list.
From Brentwood, Calif., Holder says he wears the No. 0 because “no excuses.”
- "He just feels like no one can really stay in front of him," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "He's got multiple moves he can go to, his 3-point game is making defenses honor that. He's great and crafty at finishing. How much he's improved and how much he's grown and the player he's become, I'm just so proud of him."
No. 11 — G Shannon Evans II | 6-1, 172, sr.
A transfer from Buffalo, Evans followed Hurley to Arizona State. In his senior season, he’s averaging 18.6 points and 5.3 assists. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Evans leads the Sun Devils with 14 steals and is their top free-throw shooter with an 87.2 percent mark. He’s averaging 36 minutes per game.
No. 23 — F Romello White | 6-8, 235, r-fr.
An academic redshirt last season, White is averaging 16.6 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 71.2 percent from the floor, taking nearly all of his shots right at the rim.
White, who has a 7-foot wingspan, has recorded three double-doubles this year. He’s taken the most free-throw attempts on the team (70) — shooting 60 percent. He was coached in AAU by Jerry Stackhouse.
ONE THING ARIZONA STATE DOES WELL
There’s a couple of reasons the Sun Devils are so dangerous offensively. They know how to earn trips to the free-throw line and they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country. Arizona State has made 41.6 percent of its attempts from behind the arc, which ranks 22nd in the nation.
ONE AREA ARIZONA STATE STRUGGLES
The Sun Devils allow a lot of 3-pointers and they haven’t been great at defending the arc throughout the season. Opposing teams are shooting 35.8 percent from 3-point range in 215 attempts (27 per game). Arizona State hasn’t played great defense in transition either.
MEET THE COACH
Bobby Hurley is in his third season with the Sun Devils, looking for his first winning season with the school. Previously, he coached two seasons at Buffalo, which included an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Hurley starred at Duke where he won two NCAA titles and remains the NCAA all-time assists leader (1,076). His brother, Dan, coaches at Rhode Island, and his dad, Bob Sr., was a legendary high school coach in New Jersey.
Kansas by 12. I think the Jayhawks’ offensive struggles were a little overblown last game against Washington. Not many teams will be able to replicate Washington’s zone and it took an off night for several of KU’s shooters. Defensively, I think there were more holes that showed than a week ago, which ASU should look to exploit.
My prediction: Kansas 87, Arizona State 78. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-3.