ASU Basketball Travels to Vegas for the Continental Tire Invitational
By TJ Mathewson // Men’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz. The hype around the Arizona State basketball program (4-0) is slowly starting to build.
The Sun Devils are coming off of a four-game stretch to start the season, where they’ve won every game, averaged 95 points doing so and outscored their opponents by 24.5 points.
Despite facing a couple of good tests to start the season versus potential tournament teams like San Diego State and UC Irvine, the Sun Devils will be tested even more this weekend in the Continental Tire Invitational in Las Vegas.
ASU will play Kansas State (4-0) on Thursday. And then depending on the outcome of that game, they’ll play either No. 15 Xavier (4-0) or George Washington (2-2).
Kansas State’s 2016 season (21-14) was mediocre, it was under .500 in conference play (6-8), but it earned a spot in the NCAA tournament as an 11-seed. K-State preceded to lose in the round of 64 to Cincinnati.
Even with the tournament bid last season, the Wildcats are projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big-12 this year.
KSU is going to have to try to replace its top two rebounders from last season in Wesley Iwundu (NBA Draft) and D.J. Johnson (graduation). Junior forward Dean Wade and grad transfer Mawdo Sallah look to try and pick up the slack along with newcomers James Love II, Makol Mawien and others.
Returning junior guards Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown are looking to improve from last season. Each averaged over 11 points, two assists and two rebounds in 2016. Each will try and emerge as leaders for a Wildcats team with no senior scholarship players on the roster.
This will be a really good test for ASU’s offense, as KSU comes into this matchup third in the country with opponents adverting 50.8 points per game.
The winner of this matchup will go on to face the winner of the Xavier vs. George Washington.
Xavier has high hopes to go along with its national ranking. The Musketeers are coming off a 24-14 (9-9) season in the Big East to go along with a NCAA tournament appearance as well. Xavier made a run to the elite eight as an 11-seed before losing to eventual runner-up Gonzaga.
This is a team that has made the Sweet-16 in six of the last 10 seasons.
Xavier returns four starters from last year’s team, including star forward Trevon Bluiett, The forward is coming off a season where he averaged 18.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, which earned himself a first-team All-Big East bid. The senior could garner some All-American talk in the 2017-18 season and will probably be selected in the 2018 NBA draft.
The only big loss for Xavier was guard Edmond Sumner, who averaged 15 points and five assists last year.
Xavier is right with ASU in terms of scoring so far this season, averaging 94.5 points through four games.
If ASU really sees themselves a tournament team, facing a ranked team like Xavier will be a big test in finding out if they ‘re ready to compete.
Finally, George Washington is coming off a season in which they finished 20-15 (10-8) in the Atlantic-10.
The Colonials will be without their leading scorer and rebounder from the 2016-17 season, Tyler Cavanaugh. GW has two players returning who averaged over 16 minutes a game in 2016-17.
One of those players is Yuta Wanatabe, who was voted preseason All-Defensive team and second team A-10. Wanatabe is averaging 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks through four games and looks to lead the Colonials in 2017-18.
ASU will tip off versus Kansas State from Vegas at 5:30 p.m. MST.
TJ Mathewson is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Men’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at email@example.com or follow TJ on Twitter @TJM5518