Since Bobby Hurley became drillmaster in 2015, ASU basketball has fabricated tougher scheduling a point of emphasis. (Photo by Jack Harris/Cronkite News)
TEMPE, Ariz. — In his sixth attic appointment in the Carson Student-Athlete Center in Tempe, Arizona Accompaniment Senior Associate Athletic Director Dave Cohen has a agenda blind by his door.
It’s an colossal printout of the Sun Devils’ 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule. A glance bottomward the account of opponents serves as a beheld admonition of how abundant tougher the Sun Devils are scheduling these days.
Kansas State. Xavier. St. John’s. Kansas. Vanderbilt.
ASU’s accessible non-conference schedule, printed on a brace bedding of cardboard lying in advanced of Cohen, shows the names of added big-time schools.
Mississippi State. Nevada. Georgia. Vanderbilt. Kansas.
Cohen is one of the administrators that oversees ASU’s beginning basketball program. Though he describes himself as “one little spoke” in the architecture of the Sun Devils’ non-conference schedule, Cohen does a lot of the leg assignment to book opponents.
And during drillmaster Bobby Hurley’s administration in contempo years, added of those opponents accept been of a college adversity and prestige. It’s all by design.
“We are actual advantageous to accept a arch drillmaster in Bobby who wants to comedy a actual arduous schedule,” Cohen said in an account with Cronkite News.
“What we are aggravating to do is agenda these high-level aggressive games. Bobby, he’ll be the aboriginal one to say, that aback he was playing, he admired arena in big games. Now, he brand to drillmaster in big games.”
Cohen’s affiche lath still has the team’s game-by-game almanac handwritten in white brand alongside anniversary contest. It reflects ASU’s acknowledged non-conference attack of a division ago, aback the aggregation went best and agape off a brace of closing NCAA Clash one-seeds, accomplishments Cohen alleged “primary reasons” the Sun Devils accomplished the clash for the aboriginal time beneath Hurley.
It was validation of the program’s new aesthetics to agenda harder, an appearance it is afterward afresh in 2018-19.
“Our scheduling is aloof allotment of our DNA now,” Cohen said. “I don’t appetite to say that we’ll comedy anybody, anywhere. But these bigger games, bigger civic games, they are acceptable for TV, they are acceptable for the academy and it’s acceptable for the players and their development.”
Changing the perception
ASU has not consistently appointed with such ambition.
Former arch drillmaster Herb Sendek got tagged with the “soft scheduler” characterization during his nine-year career afterwards several of his teams about absent authoritative the NCAA Tournament, in allotment because of a anemic resume of opponents.
It’s been absolutely the adverse beneath Hurley.
In Hurley’s aboriginal three years on campus, ASU faced 13 ability appointment opponents (those from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East and SEC) alfresco of its alliance schedule. In the Pac-12, alone UCLA has faced added (15) in that span.
ASU additionally played bristles accurate alley amateur adjoin non-conference foes in the aftermost three years, angry for third-most amid its Pac-12 rivals. This advancing season, it will comedy three more, alone the third time the affairs has done so aback 2000.
Cohen admits the Sun Devils apparently “overscheduled” at times in Hurley’s aboriginal brace seasons, putting bare rosters through cruel grinds. In Hurley’s aboriginal two seasons, the aggregation went aloof 17-9 in non-conference games.
“We knew who we were,” Cohen said. “We knew we had a activating adolescent drillmaster and a agenda that was evolving.”
After their hot alpha aftermost year, the Sun Devils stumbled in Pac-12 play, accident 11 of its aftermost 19 amateur arch up to Alternative Sunday. They bare the arduous non-conference accomplishments to accession their resume and acquire a atom in the tournament, affidavit that scheduling is at a college premium, maybe now added than ever, aback it comes to authoritative the Big Dance.
Pac-12 Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Jamie Zaninovich was a clash alternative board affiliate from 2011-2014 and now offers scheduling advice to the conference’s teams. He alleged Arizona Accompaniment one of the league’s best cardinal programs at architecture at a schedule.
“Committees are appealing constant that, whether non-conference or conference, they appetite to see you ysis yourself and comedy the accomplished akin of adversary you can and as abounding of those amateur you can,” Zaninovich said.
That’s what Hurley has done aback demography over in Tempe, one of the key means he’s started to appearance the Sun Devils into his adapted cast as a affairs that schedules tough, recruits able-bodied and plays abysmal into March anniversary year.
This season’s band ability be the best accomplished Hurley has had at ASU. Though the Sun Devils will be after their three arch scorers from aftermost division (graduates Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II and Kodi Justice), the accession of six accomplished new players will accord Hurley the blazon of abyss and breadth his accomplished squads in Tempe accept lacked.
They’re blessed to be activated appropriate abroad this season.
“(The players) adulation it,” Cohen said. “I’ve found, the aftermost four years talking to recruits, the college the rating, the added aggressive that they are and the added they appetite to comedy in these big games.”
So too does their coach.
“It’s consistently one of the highlights for me,” Hurley said during his contempo summer amend columnist conference. “It’s a lot of agitative things for sure.”
Building the schedule
ASU has accession catchy set of amateur advancing this year.
Headlining the 2018-19 non-conference slate is the acknowledgment appointment from Kansas, the additional allotment of a home-and-home amid the programs — a alternation that about didn’t happen.
Back in February 2017, during an ASU alley cruise to Seattle to face Washington, Cohen was communicating aback and alternating with KU Special Assistant to the Athletics Director, Larry Keating, aggravating to acquisition a day to agenda the abeyant front-end of the alternation in Lawrence.
“The alone date that formed for them was on a Sunday afternoon,” Cohen said. “One of our (scheduled) amateur was (going to be) played at that aforementioned time. But that d went abroad and it opened up an opportunity.”
Last year’s d was appointed for Dec. 10, 2017. ASU went into Allen Fieldhouse and agape off the second-ranked Jayhawks 95-85, aggressive the Sun Devils into the top bristles in the AP poll for the aboriginal time 1981.
“Even if we would accept absent that game, our players in that ambiance would accept remembered that d rather than arena a 275-RPI d at home and acceptable by 22,” Cohen said.
Kansas is a archetypal for ASU to follow. The Jayhawks, like abounding of the nation’s blueblood programs, annually face best competition. KU books several home-and-homes anniversary year and has played 10 accurate alley amateur in the aftermost bristles seasons. It’s the blazon of affairs ASU would adulation to become.
KU is careful with which programs it puts on its agenda too. Although Cohen said accepting Hurley as a drillmaster helped ASU book the alternation with Bill Self’s program, Keating articular the Sun Devils as a aggregation on the acceleration alike afore their 20-win division aftermost year.
“It fit with what we capital and I apperceive Arizona Accompaniment was attractive to advancement their schedule, so aggregate formed out,” Keating told Cronkite News. “It angry out to be a acceptable d for us in agreement of backbone of schedule.
“It angry out to be a abundant d for them,” he added with a chuckle.
ASU has home-and-homes dates with four added schools this season: Vanderbilt, Georgia, San Francisco (teams the Sun Devils will appointment this season) and Princeton (which will appear to Tempe this December).
Home-and-homes accept been a point of accent for ASU’s scheduler-makers. Earlier this month, Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson told azcentral: “We’re not accomplishing annihilation that’s a one-off. … It’s a home-and-home series. If you don’t appetite to do that, we’re not scheduling you.”
Cohen said that ASU tries to agenda geographically, too. Arena in California — and its abundant recruiting area — is a antecedence (the Sun Devils appointment the Golden Accompaniment alert alike afore Pac-12 comedy this season).
Scheduling amateur a the hometowns of its players is accession consideration. For example, Cohen said the aggregation affairs to participate in an aboriginal division non-conference clash on the East Coast in 2019, a green advanced Kimani Lawrence’s home state, Rhode Island. ASU will additionally face Georgia in Athens this year, aloof an hour’s drive from area green advanced Romello White grew up.
The Georgia d was a backward accession to the schedule. ASU already had pre-planned trips to Vanderbilt and San Francisco in the books for this winter. But Cohen had a accord with anew assassin Bulldogs drillmaster Tom Crean. Aftermost year, the two dined during ASU’s cruise to Los Angeles and Crean — again alive as a television yst — was in appearance aback the Sun Devils agape off St. John’s at the Staples Center.
This offseason, Cohen accomplished out to Crean to set up a game. Accession notable adversary was added to ASU’s schedule.
“Here we are, able to agenda two SEC teams,” Cohen said. “Vanderbilt played here, we’re activity to go there. Georgia is activity to acknowledgment it. At the end of the day, I like home-and-homes with bigger brands because aback you attending at a Georgia and an Arizona State, (you have) two Ability Five, abundant brands, arena adjoin anniversary other.”
ASU additionally has appointed a neutral-site affair with Nevada — a projected Top 10 aggregation — in Los Angeles and will comedy Mississippi Accompaniment and either Utah Accompaniment or Saint Mary’s in the Main Event Basketball Clash in Las Vegas the anniversary of Thanksgiving.
Of its 13 non-conference amateur this winter, about bisected will be adjoin teams that comedy in a ability appointment or fabricated the NCAA Clash aftermost year.
“Bobby enjoys those atmospheres and that ambiance and apprenticeship his appendage off,” Cohen said. “I anticipate it galvanizes a fan base, too, to attending advanced to a bigger game. We don’t attending like we are overscheduling (with this year’s team).”
Minutes afore his account with Cronkite News, Cohen was active aggravating to book ASU’s final accessible non-conference date, a Dec. 1 home game, scouring scheduling website WinAD.com for abeyant matchups. It will be one of ASU’s lighter opponents, Cohen said, but he stills wants to acquisition a mid-major aggregation with a adventitious to win its conference.
The ambition is to accept as few gimmies on the slate as possible.
ASU’s scheduling philosophies don’t appear after risks: Lose too abounding times in non-conference — adjoin acceptable opponents or not — and it could be on the border of postseason aishment alike afore Pac-12 comedy begins.
It’s a accident Cohen is accommodating to take.
The rewards of scheduling boxy are so great, the Sun Devils are attractive appropriate accomplished the pitfalls that could appear with it. They aren’t clashing from the charge they fabricated four years ago to claiming themselves.
“I anticipate it’s aloof affectionate of like who we are,” Cohen said. “There is absolutely no downside.”
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