Jahii Carson

Arizona State aims to play even faster in 2013-14

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Before the 2012-13 season began Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils were picked to finish 11th, with few buying the preseason claims that the team would play faster thanks in large part to the addition of redshirt freshman point guard Jahii Carson.

In Sendek’s six prior seasons at the school his “fastest-playing” team was the 2010-11 edition, which averaged 63.9 possessions per 40 minutes (ranking 296th in the country that season). So of course the idea of Arizona State playing at a higher tempo was met with much skepticism.

In the end Sendek and his program did play faster in 2012-13, and while their jump to 65.8 possessions/40 minutes didn’t reach “run and gun” status the addition of Carson (and the improvement of veterans Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix, to name two) kept Arizona State in the NCAA tournament at-large discussion until late-February.

So what will Arizona State look to do in 2013-14? They want to play even faster, with three key numbers being their focus during the offseason according to Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com.

Three: seconds to get across midcourt.

Twelve: the number of seconds in which he’d like his team to shoot the ball.

Twenty-four: the number of seconds on the shot clock that will help accelerate Arizona State’s new offense, the one designed to get your attention and maximize the talents of sophomore Jahii Carson.

In working towards this goal, Sendek will have the team practicing with a 24-second shot clock when workouts begin in the fall. Also helpful in this process is the presence of assistant coach Eric Musselman, who has been both an assistant and head coach at the NBA level.

But despite those tools, there’s one very important reason why Sendek can push his team to play faster than any prior Arizona State squad during his tenure in Tempe: Carson.

“A few years ago, people thought I actually wanted to play a slow-down offense,” Sendek told Bickley. “I did it because it was our only chance to compete. And now people think I’ve had an epiphany. No, I have the fastest point guard in college basketball.”

Carson hit the ground running after being forced to sit out the 2011-12 season as a partial qualifier, averaging 18.5 points (47.3% FG) and 5.1 assists per game and sharing Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. And with the amount of talent that has left the conference since the end of the season, Carson could very well be the player picked to be Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year come November.

How much faster Arizona State plays next season remains to be seen, but it’s a lot easier to make such plans when armed with one of college basketball’s quickest players.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.