#60 Arizona State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Arizona State Sun Devils
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #60
Conference Rank: #7 Pac-12
Arizona State had some tough times under Bobby Hurley in his first season with the Sun Devils. The team won just five games in Pac-12 play and 15 overall. But there were some high points too, although most came early in the year. This team lost six of their last seven games in 2015-2016 and that is not a great way to go into the offseason. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic though as Coach Hurley continues to bring in his players and improve the overall talent of the team. Tra Holder is one of the holdovers and he was clearly the best player on the team as a sophomore. He averaged 14.2 points and 3.7 assists and he is the leader who will lead ASU to a much better 2016-2017 campaign compared to the 2015-2016 season.
2015-16 Record: 15-17, 5-13
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Bobby Hurley
Coach Record: 15-17 at Arizona State, 57-37 overall
Who’s Out:
Gerry Blakes, the only other double digit scorer besides Holder, is the main loss. He averaged 11.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Blakes continued to struggle with consistency during his senior season, but he was certainly capable of having some very good outings. Fellow starters Willie Atwood and Eric Jacobsen are gone too. Those two leave a big hole in the frontcourt. Atwood averaged 8.4 points and 4.3 rebounds, while Jacobsen added 7.7 points and 5.1 rebounds. Sixth man Savon Goodman is also gone. The 6-6 small forward averaged 9.6 points and a team high 6.4 rebounds. Despite coming in off of the bench, Goodman was a very important player on this team. Andre Spight was in the regular rotation too and the guard was a decent scorer, but struggled with his shot.
Who’s In:
There are plenty of new faces who are more than capable of stepping into a large role. Both Shannon Evans and Torian Graham followed Coach Hurley from Buffalo. Evans averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 assists for the Bulls during the 2014-2015 campaign when Buffalo reached the NCAA Tournament. With Holder and Evans, expect Coach Hurley to run with multiple point guards. The backcourt also adds Sam Cunliffe, a versatile 6-6 guard who can score in a variety of ways. Having a 6-6 player who can shoot and create his own shot will prove very important. The frontcourt is in need of new bodies and this is a very good group. Jethro Tshisumpa, Romello White and Andre Adams all come to ASU with pretty high expectations. Tshusumpa could be the most important newcomer on the team. He is the player who can protect the rim and be a true center. White can play the five spot as well, but he may be better suited as a power forward. Either way, that versatility will come in handy. Adams can be a decent rim protector as well, but he will likely find himself behind Tshusumpa in the frontcourt pecking order for now. Vitaliy Shibel and Ramon Villa will hope to add even more depth to the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
By the end of last season, Obinna Oleka was a very good player. The 6-8 senior averaged 9.6 points and 6.1 rebounds on the year, but those numbers do not indicate how well he was playing in February and March. He is the forward who can stretch the defense and even with all of new talent coming into the frontcourt, Oleka is ready to turn into the most productive forward on the team. Kodi Justice, a 6-5 wing, is ready for bigger things too. He provided a nice offensive spark off of the bench last season and should do the same this year. He could step into a starting spot due to his experience, but having a player who can knock down three-pointers like Justice will be a nice asset. He took 150 three-pointers last year and connected on 40.0 percent of them.
Final Projection:
This team has a lot of new faces, but Coach Hurley is still building for the future. If the newcomers can begin to live up to their potential, this is an ASU squad that can seriously compete in the Pac-12. Players like Cunliffe and Tshusumpa need to be ready for major minutes from day one and a handful of others will need to fill out the lineup with some quality minutes. But building around Evans, Holder and Oleka is a great place to start. This is still a young team with Graham and Oleka being the only two seniors on the roster. Reaching the NIT this year would be a nice stepping stone to potentially better things the following season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Shannon Evans, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Tra Holder, Junior, Guard, 14.2 points per game
Sam Cunliffe, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Obinna Oleka, Senior, Forward, 9.6 points per game
Romello White, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.3 (167th in nation, 9th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 74.0 (231, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.5 (286, 12)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.8 (291, 12)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.9 (85, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.6 (228, 10)
Free-Throw Percentage: 41.5 (286, 12)
Rebound Margin: 0.6 (170, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.7 (211, 11)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.0 (105, 4)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#35 Sam Cunliffe
#77 Romello White
#109 Jethro Tshisumpa