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Sun Devils Heating up as Pac-12 Tournament Nears

Arizona State's form has been considerably improved as of late, as some of their best basketball has come at what many would consider the right time.

The Arizona State Sun Devils are hoping it's not a case of being too little too late. 

For the majority of the year, ASU's basketball has seen problem after problem plague the program. 

First it was Arizona State's inability to shoot. Then, it was simply being overwhelmed by opposing teams (even when ASU was considered favorites) and their ability to shoot three-pointers.

Sprinkle in their best player in forward Marcus Bagley being sidelined with a knee injury since Nov. 15, COVID postponements that led to one game being played in 26 days and even a power outage that canceled a home game for ASU, and you'll find this season has been anything but kind for head coach Bobby Hurley with the majority of his top talent from last season departing. 

There's no masking how dismal Arizona State looked at times. The Sun Devils, for majority of the year, haven't played up to par, and their current ranking at No. 9 in the Pac-12 standings isn't a facade. 

Prior to February, Arizona State strung together only  one three-game winning streak. That streak saw impressive road wins at Oregon and Creighton with a home victory against Grand Canyon sandwiched between. 

Following that stretch, Arizona State won only two of their next 11 games, leaving little hope for any consolation prize to be met at the end of the year. 

However, Saturday's 63-61 win over Utah marked ASU's fifth victory in six outings, with the sole loss coming on the road to No. 12 UCLA. 

The Sun Devils are heating up, and don't think some within the national landscape hasn't noticed. 

ASU has benefited from a few players rising to the occasion as of late, most notably guard Marreon Jackson. Jackson initially began the season as a starter, but quickly found himself coming off the bench. 

Prior to the month of February, Jackson scored double-digit points only five times. Jackson has hit that mark seven times since, averaging 13 points per game and 4.7 assists this past month. 

His recent scoring prowess matched with his ability to facilitate, has taken the Sun Devils to new levels, levels some would consider potentially dangerous as the regular season draws to a close.

We're just two weeks away from the Pac-12 tournament, as Arizona State has two home meetings with Cal (March 3) and Stanford (March 5) before preparations for conference brackets can begin. 

Realistically, the Sun Devils need a championship game appearance to be remotely close to qualifying for the NCAA tournament, if not winning it all in Las Vegas. That's a fault of their own thanks to a treacherous beginning to the season. 

However, ASU has seemingly turned the corner in all facets, displaying active hands on the defense, while taking higher quality shots on the other end. 

When it comes to piecing together magical runs, any player/coach/analyst could tell you it's all about who gets hot at the right time. 

Giants in the Pac-12 such as UCLA, Arizona and USC still stand in the way. But perhaps we're seeing Arizona State do just that at a time when it's needed more than ever.