Aaron Bright, Jahii Carson

Will Saturday’s missed opportunity prove costly for Arizona State?

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Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils have been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises, as the addition of Jahii Carson and the improvement of Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski has resulted in an 18-6 record (7-4 Pac-12).

But come Selection Sunday, will we look back on their 62-59 loss to Stanford on Saturday night as the missed opportunity that ultimately leads to them not making the NCAA tournament?

The Sun Devils had plenty of chances to pick up the victory against a Stanford team that limped to the finish line just as they did on Wednesday night against No. 7 Arizona, including Dwight Powell throwing an inbounds pass off the Wells Fargo Arena scoreboard with seven tenths of a second remaining.

But ASU was unable to take advantage and the end result is a weekend split (they beat California on Thursday) ahead of a tough stretch to end the regular season.

Five of Arizona State’s final seven regular season games are on the road, beginning with a trip to Utah on Wednesday, and if that doesn’t seem like a difficult game because of the Utes’ record (10-13, 2-9) think again.

Arizona State won the first meeting 55-54 in overtime, surviving three Utah attempts at the game-winner in the final seconds. The front court tandem of Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn can challenge ASU’s big men, with Washburn tallying 19 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots in the first meeting.

Following that contest they visit Colorado, and after home games against Washington State and Washington the Sun Devils finish their season at UCLA, at USC and at Arizona. While a win over Stanford wouldn’t have made waves nationally, grabbing a weekend sweep would have moved Arizona State into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Arizona, Oregon and UCLA.

And with a non-conference resume headlined by wins over Arkansas (who followed up their win over Florida with a loss at Vanderbilt) and Texas Tech, the Sun Devils need all the conference victories they can get to make up for a non-conference strength of schedule that is ranked 282nd nationally according to warrennolan.com.

Arizona State has work to do in these final weeks, as do a number of teams across the country, and Saturday’s defeat may have raised the stakes for the Sun Devils.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

Stanford loses key veteran guard to stress fracture

Marcus Allen
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Stanford guard Marcus Allen will be out indefinitely after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot, the school announced on Monday evening.

“We want to make sure Marcus is fully healthy before returning to the court,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said in a statement. “Marcus played at a high level during our summer exhibition competition in Italy, where he was one of our leading scorers. We will certainly miss him as we continue to prepare for the season, but we are fortunate that this happened now and he will be back before he knows it.”

The loss of Allen is a potentially brutal blow in an already-thin back court. The 6-foot-3 Allen started 23 games as a sophomore last season, averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 boards. But he averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 boards as the Cardinal made a run to the NIT championship and looked poised to be able to replace the departed Chasson Randle’s production this year.

What’s worse is that without Allen, Stanford does not return a single player in their back court that averaged more than 11.5 minutes. Sophomore Robert Cartwright looks poised to step into the starting point guard role, but neither Dorian Pickens nor Christian Sanders looked like they were ready for that kind of role in the Pac-12 last season. Dawkins does return Malcolm Allen, Marcus’ twin brother, who sat out last season with a broken wrist.

The good news is that Stanford’s front court is strong enough to carry the Cardinal until Marcus is healthy. Rosco Allen, Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey will be able to hold their own against any front line in the Pac-12, while Grant Verhoeven and freshman Josh Sharma will provide adequate depth.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.