Another 20-win season is fading fast for ASU’s Sendek

Consistency.  That’s the hard part of succeeding in sports.

Up one year, down the next doesn’t get it done.  Particularly at the college and pro levels.

Just ask Herb Sendek.  The ASU head basketball coach was voted the Pac-10 Coach of the Year last season for taking his Sun Devils to a second-place finish in the conference – after being picked in the pre-season polls to finish anywhere from seventh to tenth.

It was the school’s highest conference finish in 30 years.

Now, a year later, Sendek is in charge of a team that sits in the Pac-10 cellar, with just one conference win in seven tries.

Sure, they were picked again in the pre-season polls to finish a mediocre seventh place this year.  But that doesn’t always mean a whole lot, as ASU proved last year.

Take the case of  two teams picked to finish below ASU this season.  Stanford was picked to finish dead last this year and they’re sitting in fifth place.  Washington State, picked to finish in eighth, are in fourth place.

The ASU men’s team was the only Arizona squad that finished this week’s series with the Washington schools  empty-handed.  The UofA women won both of their match-ups, while the Sun Devil women and UofA men at least split.  But Sendek’s squad got thumped by Washington State, 78-61, and last night lost to Washington, 88-75.

We’re almost halfway through the Pac-10 schedule, and the ASU men stand at 9-10 overall and 1-6 in conference.

The shot clock is winding down for the Devils.  They need to begin making a move soon, or end up this season falling short of even the modest projections they were afforded.

They have all the necessary pieces.  Sendek just needs to figure out how best to put them together in a way that they will be effective on a regular basis.

Ty Abbott is a strong senior leader who was a Pac-10 First Team selection last year, and Trent Lockett was named to the conference’s All Freshman Team last season.  And it is generally recognized that Sendek had a good recruiting class for this season.

Lockett continues to put up good numbers this year, with games of 24 and 22 points earlier this season.  He and Abbott, a local product from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, each put up 20 points yesterday and had ASU within three points of the No. 20-ranked Huskies  with less than three minutes to play.

And this is a Washington team that is 15-4, leading the Pac-10, and winning their games by an average of almost 30 points.

Another senior, Rihards Kuksis, had 11 points in that game and is shooting almost 50 percent from three-point range this season.

So the weapons are there.  But the defense hasn’t been.

The 88 points by Washington were the most scored against a Sendek-coached ASU team.  And it’s becoming a trend, as the Devils have given up an average of 80 points over the last three games.

Maybe, after four seasons, the Pac-10 schools have figured out how to better handle the zone defense Sendek brought to the desert from North Carolina State.

Sendek was hoping to post another 20-win season this year, after notching three in a row.  But the Sun Devils would almost have to run the table from here on out to accomplish that.

And that’s not likely to happen.

But if they can get some of that consistency – on both ends of the floor – that’s so important to success, they might at least rise above pre-season expectations.