Arizona State learned pretty quickly that conference play is not as easy as it may seem.
After starting the season 12-0 and climbing as high as No. 3 in the polls, the Sun Devils lost their second straight game to open Pac-12 play Thursday when they fell at Colorado, 90-81, in overtime.
It’s the 11th time this season that a top five team has lost to an unranked team.
Credit where credit is due: Colorado played great. McKinley Wright was awesome, finishing with 19 points and five assists. Namon Wright had 19 points off the bench. George King finished with 18 points, hitting a big three in overtime to open up a five-point lead. Nothing I am going to say will diminish that.
But Arizona State is the team that has spent the first two month of the season looking like a national title contender so they are the team that we are going to be focused on.
And frankly, I think some of this is the regression that we all thought would eventually come. Arizona State is a team that’s built around talented guards making tough shots – and a lot of threes – and at some point they would run cold. That’s just kind of how basketball works. Right now, Shannon Evans is running cold. He was 3-for-14 from the floor on Thursday night. He was 3-for-14 from the floor in Saturday night’s loss at Arizona. He’s a combined 0-for-14 from three in those two games. In the last five games, he is shooting 17-for-68 (25 percent) from the floor and 9-for-47 (19.1 percent) from three.
But it’s also important to remember that Arizona State’s first loss was on the road to a team we all thought would run away with the Pac-12 regular season title. And their second loss came at more than a mile of elevation in a conference road game. There’s a reason it’s so difficult to win at Utah and at Colorado, and it’s not because those programs have been juggernauts in recent years.
So yes, Arizona State has not been playing well.
And when you don’t play well in league games on the road, you lose.
Don’t be too worried just yet.