Maybe Arizona State was never going to win the Pac-10, but the Sun Devils entered the season with some hope for an NCAA tournament berth. Before Thursday night, that temperate hope was still alive. The Sun Devils' nonconference run wasn't the most impressive, but you can argue that none of ASU's losses -- at New Mexico, vs. St. John's, at Baylor, and vs. Richmond -- were so bad as to indict them as a Pac-10 bottom-feeder this season.
Thursday night's loss -- a thorough defeat at Oregon State -- might. Road games are never easy, sure, but it's not like ASU was playing at Washington. They were playing the same Beavers team that has already lost to Seattle, Texas Southern, Utah Valley, Colorado, Montana and George Washington this season. That is just ... ew.
Naturally, ASU coach Herb Sendek wasn't too pleased. According to AZ Central, Sendek kept his team in the locker room for an hour after the game before eventually addressing the media. And when he eventually made his way to the postgame, the coach spent a chunk of that time questioning his team's effort:
Said Sendek: "Playing hard is always essential, and some guys are still trying to learn what playing hard is really all about." Asked if they should have an idea after 12 games, Sendek responded: "Absolutely." [...] Sendek: "We're very challenged. We're going to have to be just consumed with improvement. We are who we are right now. We got to get a lot better."
This is true, and it's true of the Sun Devils in both phases of the game, but it's especially true on offense. Arizona State is averaging 1.02 points per possession (adjusted, per KenPom) on the offensive end; Sendek's team is merely mediocre shooting the ball, rarely rebounds its misses, and never gets to the free throw line. That's a recipe for ugly offense no matter how fast you play. For a squad as slow as Sendek's, it leads to some truly blech-worthy box scores.
Next thing you know, you're scoring 58 points in a loss to Oregon State and you find yourself talking in fuzzy terms about "effort" and "improvement." But effort might only be part of the problem.
(Update: It should be noted that ASU leading scorer Trent Lockett did not play against Oregon State last night. But still.)