So far for the Sun Devils, the new kids on the block in the Pac-12 haven't been too kind to their basketball program. When ASU made the road trip to face Colorado and Utah less than a month ago, they returned demoralized, losing both games by a combined total of 36 points. Now sitting at 7-16 with little left but pride to play for, the Devils are hoping to show the conference newbies that they aren't the pushovers they seemed to be before.
And they will hopefully get a big boost Thursday against Utah as leading scorer Trent Lockett is expected to return after a six game absence due to an ankle injury. Coach Herb Sendek has to be hoping that Lockett, who missed the first slate of games against these teams, wont take too long to regain his groove from the layoff. The Devils were finally beginning to show strides with Lockett learning the point guard position on the fly, going 2-2 in the four games he took over after Keala King was dismissed.
If there's one game the Devils should win though it's this Utah one. The Utes have dropped eight of their last nine games, with their lone victory coming against ASU sadly enough. Last time around, guards Cedric Martin and Chris Hines killed the Devils, combining for 31 points and 10 assists. Lockett's presence should help slow at least one of them but Chanse Creekmur or Chris Colvin will have to step up as well. Both combined to shoot 2 for 11 to go along with some mediocre defense the first time the met the Utes, which wont fly this time if ASU is going to avoid the sweep by the Pac-12 cellar dwellers. Fans of the maroon and gold are also crossing their fingers for Jordan Bachynski to have a repeat performance from their last meeting. The sophomore center had 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks back on the January 21, which set off the current hot streak he's been on.
Lockett's 6.4 boards per game should provide a boost in the rebounding category, which will be helpful against the Buffaloes on Saturday, who out-rebounded ASU 34-22 in their first meeting. It will also be nice if he Sendek could finish out this one too, as he was ejected in Colorado with 4:12 remaining after drawing two straight technical fouls. First and foremost though, ASU will have to find a way to slow down Andre Roberson. Roberson, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds the first time around, has really stepped up his game in every facet as of late, averaging 12 points, 11.5 rebounds, three blocks and two steals a game over the past four contests. If Kyle Cain can build off his career-high 18 point game against Cal last Saturday, that would go a long way into equalizing the Buff's biggest threat.
If one's things for certain though, it's that this team's sense of urgency has to kick in now if they're to considering this year an improvement from last season. With only seven games left to play, ASU will have to win at least six of them to not finish with a worse record than the 12-19 last place 2010-2011 Sun Devil squad.