Arizona State got hot to win a First Four game on Wednesday night, a performance that certainly got the attention of No. 6 seed TCU in advance of their NCAA Tournament matchup in the West region on Friday in Denver.
The Sun Devils (23-12), more known for their defensive prowess than their shooting, made a staggering 63.6 percent from the field in a 98-73 rout of Nevada on Wednesday night. ASU shot 11 of 21 from 3-point range despite being at just over 31 percent for the season.
“They’re a good team, very athletic,” TCU guard Mike Miles Jr. said of the Sun Devils. “They can shoot; our job is to not let them get comfortable shooting the ball.”
The Horned Frogs (21-12) aren’t known as long-range shooters, either — they are at 30.6 percent for the season, which ranks 342nd in the country — but they have a difference-maker on offense in Miles, who averages 17.3 points per game, shoots 49.7 percent from the field and can score from all levels.
TCU also is hoping its defense travels well in the postseason. The Frogs are 21st nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. Arizona State is 32nd.
“It’s going to be a priority for us to take care of the ball and make good decisions,” ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. “I mean, we could run — we get up and down the floor and we’re pretty athletic ourselves, but I don’t think we want to get into a track meet with TCU.”
Arizona State doesn’t have an offensive ace like TCU does, but Desmond Cambridge Jr. (13.8 points per game) and DJ Horne (12.4) can be dangerous bucket-getters in any given game. They combined for 37 against Nevada.
“We have a new task in front of us and a big challenge ahead of us,” Hurley said. “But I think they understand that because we’ve just played so many good teams the last few weeks. We haven’t had a break.”
Arizona State played UCLA, Southern California (twice) and Arizona (twice) during its final six games before the First Four.
TCU knows the feeling.
The Horned Frogs, who are making back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1952-53, are battle-tested from playing in the Big 12 and having matched up against Kansas, Kansas State and Texas (twice) in their past six games. They defeated Kansas State and Texas (once) in that stretch.
TCU has been getting healthier late in the season and shooting better than its season average from distance, including dropping 19 of 44 (43.2 percent) in two Big 12 tournament games.
“We feel like we’re playing our best basketball,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “I felt like we played very well in the Big 12 tournament with the win against Kansas State and had every opportunity against Texas. Didn’t get it done, but I liked how hard we played and how we executed at the same time in the half court.”
Since the field expanded to 68 in 2011, at-large First Four winners such as Arizona State have outplayed their seeding, going on to win at least one game in the 64-team bracket in 10 of 22 opportunities.
Friday’s winner gets a second-round matchup against the winner between No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 14 Grand Canyon.
–Field Level Media