Georgia (Dec. 15)
Last Tournament appearance: 2015 (Lost to Michigan in the Second Round)
Points scored per game: 79.2 (88 of 353)
Points allowed per game: 71.2 (173 of 353)
Strength of schedule: -5.16 (309 of 353)
Vanderbilt (Dec. 17)
Last Tournament appearance: 2017 (Lost to Northwestern in the First Round)
Points scored per game: 83.9 (28 of 353)
Points allowed per game: 71.8 (189 of 353)
Strength of schedule: -2.09 (98 of 353)
Not all teams will travel cross conference for a weekend with a pair of non-conference slates, but as time has gone on head coach Bobby Hurley isn’t scared of anything before Pac-12 play begins. A week after facing a top ten team in Nevada on a neutral site, the Arizona State Sun Devils are headed to Athens and Nashville for more non-conference challenges.
“It’s going to be a good way to rehearse for a conference road scenario. That’s how we’ve approached it and we’ve had some good practices following our game last week. Just trying to simulate those conditions,” Hurley said. “We’re going to have to go on the road pretty soon and play a two game set. For us to have to go to Georgia on Saturday and play again on Monday at Vanderbilt, it simulates those conditions.”
The struggles of the Sun Devils once they got into conference play are well documented. The team didn’t get a single Pac-12 road trip sweep and got swept once. For the Sun Devils, who are currently the only ranked in the conference and currently look like the favorite, they need to have better success on the road.
Traveling to Georgia and Vanderbilt may not be the titan of going into Lawrence to play Kansas as ASU did last year, but it won’t be easy. The Bulldogs are quite like the Sun Devils in their length and athleticism.
“They’re very similar in that regard. I don’t think we’re going to come close to overwhelming them from a size, athleticism standpoint,” said Hurley of Georgia. “I just know Tom Cream is an excellent coach that is going to have his team prepared. They’re going to work hard and compete, so it’s going to be a real good test for us.”
The weekend will also test ASU’s ability to bounce back from a loss. With the struggles of conference play also came the inability to deal with losing, after their undefeated non-conference run, ASU couldn’t put wins together. The Sun Devils got on a winning streak in Pac-12 play just once, while having a handful of losing streaks.
Hurley thinks though that Nevada loss can help the team going forward:
“There are no moral victories and you hate to lose anything but when you can sit down and look at the film and pick it apart and figure out why the outcome was what it was, this is what it’s all about really for all teams still learning about themselves at this part of the season,” he said. “But I think our growth potential is substantial because of our youth and having five of our top eight guys are freshmen and sophomores, so they’re still learning.
“We’ve had a lot of guys out in practices and the offseason. So just having everyone back on the floor, we’ve got a chance to develop and that’s why it’s great and why to play these kinds of games are helpful to our development as a team.”
In general, this weekend, win or lose, will help shed more light on where this Arizona State team is, will go and hope to be.