DAYTON, Ohio — A weekend in December could hold the key to success in March for Arizona State.
The Sun Devils will face off with the Syracuse Orange tonight, just over 72 hours after finding out when and where the game would be. The winner will head to Detroit and play TCU in the Round of 64 Friday
One of the biggest challenges of March basketball is being able to combat both time and an opponent, which UCLA found out the hard way Tuesday.
Coach Steve Alford lamented how difficult a turnaround a First Four game can be after the Bruins lost to St. Bonaventure Wednesday.
“You find out 4 o’clock who you’re playing … and sit down in two or three days to prepare and have the excitement of the NCAA Tournament,” Alford said. “You’re on a plane the next morning and playing the next day. … That’s the most difficult part, the team doesn’t get to enjoy the excitement of being in the NCAA Tournament.”
Other than not knowing for whom to prepare, this is not a new experience for the Sun Devils.
Coach Bobby Hurley stressed all year how his philosophy in scheduling games is to prepare his team for postseason play.
“We scheduled hard because we want to prepare our guys for the NCAA Tournament,” Hurley said. “That’s why you go to Kansas and you play Xavier on a neutral, and all these games we played, high-level games. And been in a lot of wars this year, and you hope that pays dividends this time of year.”
Nothing exemplifies that scheduling like December 8 and 10. On Friday, the Sun Devils played St. John’s at Staples Center in Los Angeles, winning 82-70. Immediately, they flew to the middle of the country to play Kansas on Sunday, where they notched their signature win of the season.
At the time, Hurley made the point that those wins would be what it took to advance in March.
Although Hurley said Tuesday that the team hasn’t talked about that weekend this week, senior guard Shannon Evans said he felt it has helped the team in the long run.
“This whole week is going to be good for us taking one game at a time starting (Wednesday), things like that,” Evans said. “So I feel like it really prepared us and I feel like we’re ready for the challenge.”