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Analysis of ASU Basketball’s Non-Conference Schedule

(ASU Baseball Twitter Photo)
(ASU Baseball Twitter Photo)

Arizona State men’s basketball released its 2022-23 non-conference schedule on Tuesday. The Sun Devils will once again face a challenging slate of opponents, which has become the norm in recent years under Bobby Hurley.

The non-conference schedule is highlighted by a neutral-site matchup against Creighton, who is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and is widely expected to open next season as a preseason top-10 team. The contest, which takes place on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas, is part of the Jack Jones Hoopfest.

ASU will also face perennial Atlantic-10 power VCU in the first round of the Legends Classic, which takes place Nov. 16-17 in Brooklyn. In the tourney's second round, ASU will square off against either Michigan or Pitt.

Other noteworthy games in non-conference play include road matchups against SMU, San Francisco, and Texas Southern. The latter two qualified for last season’s NCAA Tournament.

In total, the Sun Devils will play 11 non-conference games this season: five at Home, three on the road, and three at a neutral site.

Here’s a closer look at each of ASU’s non-conference opponents:

Monday, Nov. 7 | Tarleton State | Home

The Sun Devils open the season at Home against Tarleton State, which is entering its third season as an NCAA Division-1 team. The Texans went 14-17 overall last season but posted a respectable 9-9 record in WAC play. Tarleton State lost its top-two scorers to the transfer portal but return the young nucleus of Freddy Hicks (12.8 PPG), Shamir Bogues (7.1 PPG), and Noah McDavid (6.2 PPG). The trio is expected to set the tone for the Texans, who are led by veteran head coach Billy Gillespie.

Thursday, Nov. 10 | Northern Arizona | Home

ASU will host in-state rival Northern Arizona for the first time in five years. The Lumberjacks are coming off a rough 2021-22 season, in which the team went 9-23 overall and finished last in the Big Sky standings. However, it’s not all bad news for NAU, who returns all five starters from last year’s squad, including all-conference guard Jalen Cone (18.8 PPG). Also returning for the Lumberjacks are forwards Nik Mains (11.5 PPG), Keith Haymon (9.8 PPG), and Carson Towt (8.4 PPG). With most of the rotation returning, head coach Shane Burcar is expecting a bounce-back season.

Sunday, Nov. 13 | Texas Southern | Road

The Sun Devils travel to Houston to take on Texas Southern as part of the Pac-12’s partnership with the SWAC. This marks the first time a Power Five conference has scheduled an annual home-and-home series with a conference made up of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The partnership—in both men’s and women’s basketball—will begin this season with a two-year home-and-home series and extend through 2026. On the court, it could be an uphill battle for Texas Southern this season. The Tigers lost the bulk of their roster after going 19-13 last year and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. (The return game of this series will take place in Tempe in November 2023.)

Wednesday, Nov. 16 | VCU | Neutral-site (Legends Classic)

The Sun Devils will face VCU in the opening round of the Legends Classic, which will be held in Brooklyn. The Rams are coming off a solid season in which they went 22-10 overall and advanced to the second round of the NIT Tournament. Head coach Mike Rhoades will rely on returning starters Ace Baldwin (11.4 PPG) and Jayden Nunn (8.6 PPG) to set the tone for next year’s group. VCU also added a pair of transfers from Michigan—Brandon Johns Jr. and Zeb Jackson—who are expected to make a significant impact. Surprisingly, this game marks the first meeting between the two schools.

Thursday, Nov. 17 | Pitt/Michigan | Neutral-site (Legends Classic)

Depending on the outcome of the VCU game, ASU will play either Pitt or Michigan in the final round of the Legends Classic. Pitt was 11-21 last season, while Michigan went 19-15 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA tourney.

Tuesday, Nov. 22 | Grambling | Home

ASU will host Grambling for a pre-Thanksgiving tilt, which marks only the second head-to-head contest between the two schools. Last season was a struggle for the Tigers, who went 12-20 overall (8-9 in SWAC play) and stumbled its way to the program’s first losing season in six years. However, there is reason for head coach Donte Jackson to be cautiously optimistic. The Tigers return a trio of starters in Tra’michael Moton (10.4 PPG), Shawndarius Cowart (8.1 PPG), and AJ Taylor (7.9 PPG).

Sunday, Nov. 27 | Alcorn State | Home

The reigning SWAC regular-season champions will visit Tempe for a post-Thanksgiving matchup. Alcorn State was 17-7 last season, including a 14-4 record in conference play. The Braves, who are coached by Landon Bussie, lost three of their top-five scorers from last season but return starters Oddyst Walker (7.3 PPG) and Byron Joshua (6.9 PPG), as well as key reserves Keondre Montgomery (9.8 PPG) and Dominic Brewton (9 PPG).

Wednesday, Dec. 7 | SMU | Road

ASU travels to Dallas for the first leg of a home-and-home series with SMU. (The return game in Tempe is scheduled for the 2024-25 season.) It will likely be a transitional year for the Mustangs, who enter the post-Tim Jankovich era after the longtime head coach retired in March. To complicate matters, SMU also lost five of its top-six scorers -- either to graduation or the transfer portal. Newly-minted head coach Rob Lanier is relying on returning guards Zach Nutall (6.8 PPG) and Zurich Phelps (3.8 PPG) to take a big step next season. Lanier also brought in a handful of players from the transfer portal, most notably Samuel Williamson (5.6 PPG at Louisville) and Efe Odigie (11.5 PPG at Troy).

Monday, Dec. 12 | Creighton | Neutral-site (Jack Jones Hoopfest)

ASU travels to Las Vegas for a critical neutral-site game against Creighton, who is widely considered a preseason top-10 team. The Blue Jays return a trio of starters from last year’s squad, which advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Among the returnees is 7-foot center Ryan Kalkbrenner (13.1 PPG), who was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year last season. Also returning to the mix is point guard Ryan Nembhard (11.3 PPG), who was the Big East Rookie of the Year, as well as forward Arthur Kaluma (10.4 PPG). Creighton also struck gold with the addition of South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman, the reigning Summit League Player of the Year. The Sun Devils narrowly beat Creighton 58-57 in last season’s matchup, which was played in Omaha.

Sunday, Dec. 18 | San Diego | Home

It’s the dawn of a new era for San Diego, who hired Steve Lavin as its head coach in the offseason. Lavin, who had previous stops at UCLA and St. John’s, is hoping to turn around a San Diego program that has endured three-consecutive losing seasons. Luckily for Lavin, he’ll have plenty of firepower at his disposal. The Toreros return their top-two scorers in Marcellus Earlington (13.2 PPG) and Jase Townsend (11.3 PPG). Lavin also added some serious talent from the transfer portal, including a pair of Pac-12 grad transfers in Jaiden DeLaire (Stanford) and Eric Williams Jr. (Oregon). San Diego also brought in transfers Nic Lynch (Lehigh) and Seikou Sisoho Jawara (Weber State), who were both all-conference selections at their previous schools.

Wednesday, Dec. 21 | San Francisco | Road

ASU wraps up the non-conference schedule with a tough road game at San Francisco. The Dons are coming off a historic season in which they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years. San Francisco may have lost its head coach (Todd Golden left for Florida) and leading scorer (Jamaree Bouyea graduated), but they are positioned nicely for another stellar season. All-conference guard Khalil Shabazz (13.7 PPG) decided to return for his super senior season and will be joined in the backcourt by a pair of talented transfers in Tyrell Roberts (Washington State) and Marcus Williams (Texas A&M). Returning guards Gabe Stefanini, and Julian Wishwain add even more depth to the Dons’ perimeter attack.

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