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NC State vs. Arizona State preview: Sun Devils have new coach but same old problems

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch or listen to the game

Tip time: 9:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 23

TV: nay

Online streamingESPN3

Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network (affiliates)

Arizona State vitals

Record: 2-1
Pomeroy ranking: No. 73
Best win: 83-74 over Belmont (KenPom No. 98)
Worst loss: 66-63 to Sacramento State (KenPom No. 187)

Adjusted tempo: 72.6 poss/40 minutes (ranks 105th)
Adjusted offensive efficiency: 104.8 (ranks 97th)
Adjusted defensive efficiency: 97.1 (ranks 62nd)

ASU roster
ASU schedule
ASU stats 2015-2016

The Arizona State offense and starters

ASU Offense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2014-15 50.9 (87) 20.7 (285) 31.8 (134) 42.1 (51)
2015-16 52.6 (103) 20.2 (233) 37.6 (51) 45.7 (95)

Oh, what could have been. Herb Sendek patrolled the sidelines at Arizona State since leaving NC State in 2006, but alas, our old friend was fired last year, denying us a bizarro reunion. Enter Bobby Hurley, who is in only his third season as a head coach. Hurley spent two successful years at Buffalo, culminating with a MAC tournament title in 2015 and an NCAA bid.

Despite Herb's absence, there are still plenty of NC State connections at ASU. Hurley brought former Wolfpack player and coach Levi Watkins with him to the desert, and Watkins brought along guard Torian Graham, who he'd been recruiting since his days at NC State. Graham is sitting out this season.

Hurley also managed to yoink one of his best players at Buffalo, too--guard Shannon Evans should be an instant-impact player when he comes eligible next season. With some decent talent waiting in the wings, Arizona State's immediate prospects aren't bad, and Hurley also inherited a decent returning core of players.

ASU will have to weather the departure of Shaquielle McKissic, who led the team in scoring last season, but that is not exactly a devastating loss. The Sun Devils have four of their top five scorers from 2014-15 back, giving them a solid foundation at the offensive end.

Given that, it's no surprise that Arizona State's offensive profile hasn't changed drastically, at least not in the early going. In three of the four factors, ASU's production has been similar to its production from a year ago. The difference early on has been in offensive rebounding, though that could be a function of schedule as much as anything else.

For the most part, the strengths they had last year are still there, but so are the weaknesses, of which there are many.

It's not a big team, as they rank 196th in effective height. Arizona State is also taking fewer three-point shots hand hitting a lower percentage of those attempts. Their big losses came in the form of perimeter scoring, with three players who took 100+ threes in 2015 gone. Two of those guys shot better than 37% from outside, so it ain't hard to figure why this team hasn't been as productive on outside shots.

Two guys likely to try and fill that void--Gerry Blakes and Tre Holder--don't have the most encouraging track records when it comes to outside shooting. So it's tough to figure where the Sun Devils will find consistent three-point production in the year ahead. Fortunately for them, they've been able to compensate with 55.6% shooting inside the arc.

In addition to finding answers along the perimeter, the Sun Devils need to figure out how to cut down on turnovers. That might not be possible with all of the holdovers/culprits who are gonna have to play significant minutes in 2016. Some problems just don't have immediate solutions. ASU's turnovery nature is likely one of those.

Starters

Tra Holder (6-1, 180) -- Holder is playing more assertively, taking advantage of the rules changes this season to draw more than seven fouls per 40 minutes. His three-point accuracy remains questionable, as he's only 1-7 from deep after hitting only 12 of 50 three-point attempts as a freshman. His assist rate thus far is excellent, and he's also cut his turnover rate way down.

Andre Spight (6-3, 168) -- The juco transfer came in to Tempe firin' and has taken nearly a quarter of ASU's shots while he's on the floor. That would be fine, except that he is 6-32 on the season. Eep.

Gerry Blakes (6-4, 195) -- Last season, Blakes to a very-hard-to-justify 30.4% of the team's shots while he was on the floor. He managed to average only 11.1 points per game despite the heavy workload, so you can probably figure out what the problem was. His workload is down a bit this season but it seems clear enough that he'll remain a primary option for the Sun Devils. If he can improve on his career 30.7% three-point shooting, it'd be a huge boost for this group.

Willie Atwood (6-7, 215) -- Not afraid to step out and shoot threes, and was actually pretty good in limited action last season (35.5%). It was the horrendous two-point shooting (33.3%) that crushed his efficiency. So far this year he's been a tremendous offensive rebounder and shown a knack for drawing fouls.

Eric Jacobsen (6-10, 240) -- ASU has itself a fine role player here; in these cases it's often tough to figure if said role player should get a little more attention. Jacobsen has always been a light-usage guy (12.8% of the shots last year) and he's also consistently scored effectively in the paint (58.4 career 2FG%). The Sun Devils might be advised to give him more opportunities, but it's a difficult proposition with a bunch of shot-happy guards. Jacobsen's usage is actually up some this season, though still well below average. He's shooting 70.6% (12-17) from two after shooting 62.6% (102-163) in 2015. Good offensive rebounder, decent defensive rebounder and shot blocker. Also a bit turnover-prone.

The Arizona State bench and defense

Reserves: Savon Goodman (6-6, 220), Maurice O'Field (6-5, 210), Obinna Oleka (6-7, 225), Kodi Justice (6-5, 190). Turnovers plague Goodman, but he can be an excellent scorer inside the arc, and he is a monster on the glass at both ends of the floor. Definitely a guy worth keeping an eye on. O'Field hasn't played a ton and has a minuscule usage number--he's taken all of four shots in three games. Probably not going to see much from him.

Oleka plays aggressively while he's in the game, which to this point has worked out fine for ASU. He's been an accurate scorer inside the arc and good at  drawing fouls. His block and steal rates are both outstanding early on, though he could stand to improve his rebounding.

Justice might be Arizona State's biggest deep threat; it's just hard to tell since he has only 48 career three-point attempts. The fact that he's made 45.8% of them is a good sign, though. He's been much better from three than he has inside the arc, where's he's a career 36.4% shooter.

ASU Defense -- Four Factors eFG% (National Rank) TO% OR% FT Rate
2014-15 50.2 (223) 19.1 (161) 25.1 (7) 34.1 (121)
2015-16 44.2 (78) 20.2 (118)
23.5 (45) 28.3 (48)

Herb's boys grabbed themselves the heck out of some defensive rebounds in 2015, but that was just about all they did well. The Sun Devils' 2FG% defense and 3FG% defense were both below national average, and they weren't a disruptive unit, with block and steal rates also below average. Can't have a great defense like that,  even if you are vacuuming in every defensive board.

It's far too early in the 2015-16 season to know what's substantially changed about Arizona State at this end of the floor. Obviously, the early returns have been good. They're blocking more shots and forcing teams to take more three-pointers, and that's helped them hold every opponent thus far under a point per possession. But it hasn't been the toughest run of opponents--Pomeroy ranks their schedule 307th.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by one point, so call it a coin flip game, friends. I'm optimistic NC State can beat that margin with a coherent attack, but then that's always the question, ain't it. We gonna play actual offense or merely heave up a lot of ill-advised jumpers?