December 20, 2011 | 8:01am
The ASU Sun Devils men's basketball team has but one pre-conference game remaining to right the ship, and things are looking mighty bleak. We looked in on last night as the Devils lost their second straight game on a three-point buzzer-beater, this one 64-61 to a pretty good Southern Mississippi team.
Somehow, the loss to the Golden Eagles during last night's sparsely attended contest at Wells Fargo Arena didn't seem quite as devastating as Saturday's late-afternoon's 69-68 crusher to Northern Arizona.
,That last-second win by the smaller Division I in-state "rival" unfortunately spoke volumes about the current state of ASU's program.
Head coach Herb Sendek's squad plays hard, as all of his teams do. But they're probably just not good enough at this juncture to be anything more than a "spoiler" in the Pac-12, which isn't a world-beater conference overall this year but has some pretty solid teams in Stanford, Washington, California, and Arizona.
After a game in Tempe tomorrow at 4 p.m. against Fresno State, ASU's Pac-12 season starts in earnest with a road trip to Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA.
Neither team is hot this season, though the Bruins seem to be playing better since head coach Ben Howland booted talented, but troubled, power forward Reeves Nelson (last year's top scorer and rebounder) from the program. Read somewhere that the big dude is headed to Lithuania to play pro ball.
Then, on New Year's Eve (actually a 3:30 p.m. start), the Devils will take on the hated Arizona Wildcats in Tucson -- never an easy place for an opponent, even if the Cats themselves are a work in progress after the loss to the NBA of superstar forward Derrick "D-Will" Williams.
If ASU can win even one of those first three road league games, the rest of the season may bode slightly brighter.
If not, well... we'll defer to an old Sun Devils hand who we've known for many years.
During difficult times (speaking sports-wise), this gentleman often resorts to uttering something to this effect:
There's a season, and then it's over.