At bare minimum, the goal for teams who could find themselves on the bubble in early-season tournaments is to avoid a loss (or losses) that can could potentially come back to hurt them in March when the 68-team NCAA tournament field is selected. That was the spot Arizona State found itself in following their 88-60 loss to No. 20 Creighton on Thursday night. And after a comfortable victory over the College of Charleston on Friday, Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils were one game away from accomplishing that task.
Then star point guard Jahii Carson injured his ankle in the first half of Arizona State’s game against Miami, robbing the sophomore of the explosion that makes him one of the best players in the country. With Carson at less than full strength Arizona State struggled offensively, resulting in their allowing a ten-point to lead slip away with the Hurricanes winning by the final score of 60-57.
Carson finished the game with just eight points on 2-for-14 shooting, and with their leading scorer struggling Arizona State’s supplementary parts were unable to produce enough to hold off Miami. Jermaine Marshall, who entered Sunday’s game averaging 14.2 points per game, matched his season average but did so on 4-for-12 shooting and Jordan Bachynski was highly effective in the paint (20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks).
But if there’s anything to be concerned about in the aftermath of this loss (in addition to Carson’s health, of course) it would be the lack of production from the bench. Arizona State played just eight players on Sunday, with Sai Tummala (five points) providing the only bench points of the afternoon. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes of action against Creighton, Richie Edwards failed to score against either the College of Charleston or Miami, and fellow senior transfer Shaquielle McKissic didn’t see the floor against the Hurricanes.
Arizona State’s lack of depth was a big reason why they were unable to pick up enough quality wins to reach the NCAA tournament last season, and the thinking entering 2013-14 was that they had the depth needed to take the next step. In the aftermath of Carson’s injury, regardless of the severity Arizona State needs some guys to earn additional opportunities as the start of Pac-12 play approaches.