The 2010-2011 ASU men's basketball season can be described with one word: adjustment.
Whether it's replacing half of the team due to graduation and transfers, or changing their game plans based on injury reports, the Sun Devils have had a very difficult time finding consistency this year. Both Trent Lockett and Jamelle McMillan have missed time with ailments, and the team only won 2 of the 5 contests they played without one of their stars.
When you play in a major conference, you can't win without being 100% healthy. ASU is 1-6 in conference play, with their sole victory coming on the road in Eugene against the Oregon Ducks. The Pac-10 has improved since last year, even if the national media refuses to acknowledge it.
But this isn't about what could have been; this is about the reality of the situation. Without further ado, the report card:
Strength of Schedule: In terms of name value alone, the Sun Devils played a tougher schedule with more road games than they did in 2009-2010. The biggest road tests came against New Mexico, St. John's (in Alaska), Baylor, and Nevada. While ASU only went 1-3 in those tough matchups, it must be noted that they did not artificially inflate their record with poor competition. For that, they must be commended. Hopefully, next season brings more tough road matchups, and some interesting home games as well. Rating: B
Offense: It's getting better, as proven by ASU's 75-point showing against the highly ranked Washington Huskies this past weekend. The Sun Devils scored a season-high 78 points against Nevada back in December; they play a slow style that looks to focus on big stops more than big points. ASU is ranked 284th overall by ESPN, scoring 63.5 points a game. Without the necessary defense, however, this offense just isn't getting it done. Rating: C-
Defense: The matchup zone always infuriated teams during the first few years of coach Herb Sendek's tenure in Tempe. As the Sun Devils recruited more athletic players, it was assumed that the team would shift away from the zone in favor of a man-to-man scheme that promoted length and quickness. That hasn't happened, and the zone has been exposed repeatedly by centers and forwards on opposing teams. Matthew Bryan-Amaning lit up the zone for 30 points on Saturday night, and DeAngelo Casto went off for a season-high 25 points on Thursday. Adjustments must happen for this defense to survive. Rating: D+
The Veterans: Rihards Kuksiks, Ty Abbott, and Jamelle McMillan were looked up to as the leaders of this team. The biggest disappointment has been Kuksiks, who has found himself on the bench multiple times this season as the youth movement took over. McMillan has struggled at times to contribute to the stat sheet, though his intangibles have never been questioned. Abbott has looked great at times, but needs to find the confidence to drive the lane on a consistent basis. He needs to prove he can lead, and there's still time for him to do just that. Rating: C
The Freshmen: Kyle Cain and Carrick Felix have started many games this year, and appear to have a solid future on Sendek's team for the next three seasons. Keala King has looked raw, being benched in favor of more reliable options such as Marcus Jackson. Jordan Bachynski is promising, especially with his huge 7-2 frame and penchant for slamming the ball through the hoop. Chanse Creekmur needs more time, but could be a role player worth having next season. I'm optimistic that a few of these guys will turn into good players for Herb. Rating: B-
Team Rating: C-
This year has been a reality check, for the most part. A few bounces go the right way, a few injuries don't happen, and the Sun Devils might be 12-7. But you can't look back before the season ends, and ASU must focus on finishing the year strong and putting together a compelling showing in the Pac-10 Tournament. The NIT wouldn't be so bad, would it?