Teams like the Duke Blue Devils and Michigan State Spartans entered the 2017-18 college basketball season with massive expectations, and they have met them. The same thing cannot be said about the Arizona State Sun Devils, a team that entered the season by being unranked.
Fast forward to now and Arizona State is taking over college basketball.
Here’s why: The Sun Devils went from unranked to a top-ranked team in college hoops in the blink of an eye.
They are ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 and No. 6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll entering the Week 6 rankings.
That is largely due to the fact that Arizona State has started the season off with nine wins in a row. During this span, the Sun Devils have also knocked off two top-25 teams in the Xavier Musketeers (ranked No. 15 at the time) and Kansas Jayhawks (ranked No. 2 at the time).
Believe it or not, there are many people who even think Arizona State should be ranked No. 1 in the country.
In the latest ESPN rankings, Arizona State is ranked No. 1, jumping all the way up from No. 13 the week prior.
Per the ESPN rankings:
It’s a big jump, for sure. And the metrics don’t love the Sun Devils like we love the Sun Devils. But we’ll see. Arizona State should keep this ranking for at least another two weeks with its next three games at home. Then comes the Pac-12 opener — at Arizona.
Many fans are likely thinking that a Duke or Michigan State could easily take ASU, but that is not the argument here. The argument is this: Arizona State arguably has the best resume as of right now, and it has also been one of the most pleasant surprises of the young college basketball season so far.
On top of the wins mentioned above, the Sun Devils have also knocked off the San Diego State Aztecs, Kansas State Wildcats and St. John’s Red Storm. Not to mention, remember that win against Kansas? Well, it came on the road for the Sun Devils, and they also managed to win by 10 points.
Arizona State. The new No. 1 team in the country. Seriously.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) December 10, 2017
Bottom line is that Arizona State has earned a spot at or near the top of the rankings. Resume compares to any team in country.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) December 10, 2017
Via the ESPN article mentioned above:
The Sun Devils went to Lawrence and beat Kansas by 10 on Sunday, two weeks after they knocked off Xavier on a neutral court in Las Vegas. They also have wins over Kansas State, St. John’s and San Diego State. Of their five best wins, only the San Diego State game took place in Tempe.
On the court, are they the best team in the country? That’s absolutely up for debate. They have defensive issues and maybe their insane 3-point shooting (48 percent against Xavier, 50 percent against Kansas) isn’t sustainable, but Ohio State transfer Mickey Mitchell gave them a few minutes on Sunday after not playing since the 2016 NIT and freshman Kimani Lawrence should return soon. Until then, Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and the rest of the Sun Devils should hold down the fort.
What’s not up for debate, though, is Arizona State’s résumé. Right now, it’s hard to make a case that any team in the country has a profile better than the Sun Devils. Villanova is undefeated, like Arizona State, and its two best wins are over Gonzaga and Tennessee. Michigan State has comparable wins over North Carolina and Notre Dame, but the Spartans also have a loss.
Here’s what CBS Sports had to say about the matter that is Arizona State being the best team in college basketball:
The Sun Devils’ 95-85 victory inside intimidating Allen Fieldhouse might be the best road triumph in program history. It was the team’s first win on the road against a top-five opponent in 19 years. The 16th-ranked Sun Devils impressively downed the No. 2 Jayhawks by shooting, slicing and slashing their way past a KU club that almost never gets beat like that. For Kansas, which will plunge in the polls after also losing to unranked Washington earlier in the week, it’s time for reassessment.
For Arizona State, now comes a rare national moment in the spotlight. The program has never been in this position at this point on the calendar. College basketball pundits will debate whether ASU is the best team in the sport. That hasn’t happened in decades, if it ever did.
But, seriously, Arizona State (!) could be the best team in college basketball. At the very least, it has a convincing argument for carrying the strongest resume as of Dec. 10.
What’s so great about Arizona State’s run in 2017-18 is that this is not a powerhouse program. It does not get the recruits that schools like Kentucky and Duke land, to say the least. Sure, James Harden, who is one of the best players in the NBA, and could end up winning the MVP award this season, went to Arizona State, but it’s not like ASU brings in the top-ranked recruits on a yearly basis.
More from the CBS Sports article mentioned above:
All of this is more cherished by Arizona State because it is not a school with basketball pedigree. James Harden has blossomed into a top-five player in the NBA, but the program itself has just been a generic power-conference entity for much of the modern era of college hoops. Prior to popping into the rankings a couple of weeks ago, the last time the Sun Devils had a number next to their name was the 2008-09 season. From 1994-95 until 2017-18, ASU was ranked in only four of those seasons.
Now Bobby Hurley’s team is poised to spike up the polls. A top-five ranking/reward is not out of the question, not with the valuable commodity of a road victory like what the Sun Devils just landed on Sunday. Don’t be shocked if no other team wins at the Phog this season. And if this 9-0 start leads to a top-five ranking come Monday afternoon, it will mark the team’s highest since 1981. If the AP voters are even more aggressive and declare Arizona State as a top-three team, the ranking will match team’s highest ever, dating all the way back to 1963.
No matter how this team finishes the season, ASU has stormed onto the scene in 2017-18, and at the time of writing, it can make a great case for being the best team in the sport.