It’s a saying you’ve heard time and time again: “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
Well, you can’t beat the best without playing them. So the Arizona State men’s basketball program is doing something about it.
Wednesday morning, second-year ASU head coach Bobby Hurley announced a home-and-home series with the Kansas Jayhawks while speaking with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Kansas will host ASU December 10, 2017 and will visit Tempe the next year for a pre-Christmas tilt on December 22, 2018.
“It’s an exciting series,” Hurley said. “Phog Allen (Fieldhouse) is a legendary place filled with basketball tradition and a lot of championships have been won in that building.
“I think it’s great for our program to have the tradition and success that Kansas has had to come here to Tempe two years from now and play. It’ll be a great situation for our program and our fan base, so I’m excited about it.”
Kansas, coached by Bill Self, is a perennial powerhouse in college hoops, making 27 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Under Self, the Jayhawks won a national championship in 2008, made two Final Fours and have finished in the top ten of the year-end AP rankings seven years in a row. And they’ve owned their conference, winning 13 consecutive Big 12 championships.
This year, KU is 27-3 and is the top-ranked team in the country.
While ASU has played national powers either on the road or on neutral courts in recent years, the program has had difficulty getting those programs to commit to playing in Tempe. In fact, only four ranked non-conference teams have visited Wells Fargo Arena in the last 33 years: Creighton this year, Texas A&M in 2015, Marquette in 2013 and Xavier in 2008.
With all due respect to those three fine programs, none of them offer the profile and buzz that Kansas does.
The two schools have faced each other nine times in the past, the most recent coming in a second-round NCAA Tournament game in 2003. KU, led by future pros Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison, won 108-76 and would advance all the way to the tournament’s championship game, where they lost to Syracuse.
The two schools also played a home-and-home in 1989 and 1990. The Sun Devils lost 90-67 to the second-ranked Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in the first meeting. The next year, ASU scored a 70-68 season-opening win over KU at Wells Fargo Arena.