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Men's hoops to host highest ranked non-conference foe, Xavier on Saturday

December 11, 2007

The men's basketball team will host its highest ranked non-conference foe since the 1980-81 season on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. when it plays No. 17 Xavier on Fox Sports Net. The Musketeers, 7-1 entering their game Wednesday against Cincinnati, are the highest ranked non-conference foe to visit Wells Fargo Arena since ASU topped seventh-ranked Ohio State on Dec. 20, 1980. Xavier is the first ranked non-conference opponent to visit Wells Fargo Arena since No. 18 UTEP topped ASU 60-55 on Dec. 22, 1983.

Ted Robinson and Marques Johnson will have the call Saturday as the Sun Devils make their first appearance on FSN against the Musketeers. Xavier, coached by former Herb Sendek assistant coach Sean Miller, has made the NCAA Tournament seven of the past 10 years and has won at least 20 games nine times in the past 10 years.

ASU has played several ranked non-conference teams in preseason tournaments at neutral sites and some on the road. The 2002, 1998 and 1994 Maui Invitational produced four match-ups against ranked teams, ASU played No. 20 Texas in the 1999 Puerto Rico Classic and in 1997 ASU faced No. 2 Kansas and No. 11 UCONN in back-to-back games at Madison Square Garden. ASU also played at No. 2 Kansas on Dec. 22, 1989, and at No. 9 Kentucky on Dec. 14, 1991, and in 1993-94 ASU played eighth-ranked Oklahoma State in Tulsa on Dec. 2, 1993.

Bad timing has played a part in the drought in terms of playing a ranked non-conference team at home. For example, ASU has actually played two non-conference teams that eventually reached the Final Four (Oklahoma State in 1994-95 and Kansas in 1990-91) that were not ranked in the early part of the year when they visited Tempe.

Here is a look at some near misses of teams that have consistently been near the top 25 or in the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis but for whatever reason they weren't ranked upon visiting Wells Fargo Arena:

BRIGHAM YOUNG (ASU beat the Cougars 80-52 on Dec. 2, 2000, and lost 64-60 on Dec. 4, 2002)
ASU has played BYU twice at Wells Fargo Arena in the past eight years and in both years the Cougars went to the NCAA Tournament but were not ranked at the time of the game.

GEORGIA (ASU beat the Bulldogs 62-61 on Dec. 29, 1989)
Georgia went to the 1990 and 1991 NCAA Tournaments and reached the AP top-25 in the 1989-90 season, but not the week it played ASU.

Iowa (ASU beat Iowa 67-64 on Nov. 25, 2006)
Had the games been reversed and Iowa visited Tempe first, the Hawkeyes would have been ranked as ASU played at No. 22 Iowa one year earlier on Dec. 17, 2005. Iowa had been ranked in seven of the eight previous December polls in 2004 and 2005 and was coming off a Big Ten Tournament championship and back-to-back NCAA appearances.

Kansas (ASU beat Kansas 70-68 on Nov. 23, 1990, in the season opener in Bill Frieder's second season)
In terms of playing a ranked non-conference ranked team at home this could be the ultimate in bad timing. Kansas reached No. 1 the previous year (1989-90) and was in the top five the final 16 polls that year. However, the Jayhawks were not ranked entering the 1990-91 season but eventually reached No. 8 (Feb. 19) and were 12th in the final AP poll (March 12) and fell to Duke 72-65 in national title game. ASU played the second-ranked Jayhawks one year earlier in Lawrence and lost 90-67 in Bill Frieder's first year.

Louisville (ASU lost to Louisville 63-62 in overtime on Feb. 22, 1992)
Louisville was in the polls in seven of the first 11 weeks that year but was not ranked after Jan. 27. This game was in the middle of a stretch where the Denny Crum-led Cardinals would go to the NCAA Tournament nine times in 10 seasons.

New Mexico (ASU lost to New Mexico 86-79 on Dec. 5, 1995 and beat the Lobos 59-54 on Dec. 5, 1990)
New Mexico made seven NCAA appearances in nine seasons (1991-1999) and in both the seasons it visited Tempe it made the NCAA Tournament. The Lobos reached the rankings three times in the 1995-1996 season, but not the week of the Dec. 5 game.

Oklahoma State (ASU beat the Cowboys 68-67 on Dec. 7, 1996 and 72-69 on Dec. 22, 1994)
The Cowboys visited Tempe twice during a 15-year stretch (1991-2005) when they made the tournament 13 times. They reached the 1995 Final Four behind Big Country Reeves, but when they played at Wells Fargo Arena, the Sun Devils were in the top 25 (No. 15) but not the Cowboys. The Cowboys started the season No. 21 and after falling out just two weeks later would eventually rejoin the AP poll on Feb. 6 before ending the season 14th. ASU actually played the Cowboys a year earlier in Tulsa and the Cowboys were ranked eighth on Dec. 2, 1993.

Texas (ASU beat the Longhorns 89-82 on Dec. 29, 1990)
Texas was ranked the first five weeks of the poll that season but fell out the week of the ASU game, as it was No. 23 on Dec. 18 but not ranked on Dec. 25. The Longhorns had reached the Elite Eight the previous season and were in the beginning stages of an eight-year stretch under Tom Penders where they went to the Tournament seven times, including the same season they visited Tempe.

Villanova (ASU beat Wildcats 73-62 in overtime on Dec. 29, 1993)
ASU was a year too early in the Kerry Kittles era. Villanova made the NCAAs in 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996 and 1997 and was ranked in the top 25 for 13 weeks one year later, including a No. 9 ranking twice. It reached as high as second just two Decembers removed from visiting Tempe (1995-96 season).