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Home-and-home with Kansas could help elevate ASU to new basketball heights

The Kansas Jayhawks host the Baylor Bears during an NCAA college basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
LISTEN: Bobby Hurley, ASU men's basketball coach

There is absolutely nothing like it.

It is the loudest indoor arena in the world. Wilt Chamberlain played there. The actual original sheet of rules is there. The rules were written by the man whose name is on the court just a few yards away because he started the program. A moment of pride in our family was when my wife sung there the very day we moved to Phoenix. If you’re a Sun Devil fan, do whatever you can to get to Allen Fieldhouse and “Pay Heed” when ASU travels to Lawrence, Kansas, on December 10 of this year.

The place is pretty simple when empty. It’s just an old fieldhouse like all the others from every basketball city between Ohio and Lawrence, only this one seats 16,300. Everyone in Kansas knows that number because every seat is filled. The box score lists the attendance after every game as 16,300. There’s never less, and — occasionally and without knowledge of the fire marshal — probably a handful more. Then, game day. The fan base, the students, the passion for college basketball and their Jayhawks are truly special. You will walk out of Allen Fieldhouse knowing exactly why Kansas is a force every year.

It’s not a big story that ASU is going to Allen Fieldhouse early next season. The big story: KU is coming here. On the show today, ASU head coach Bobby Hurley announced that the Devils are going to Lawrence on December 10th, and Kansas is returning to Tempe for the first time since 1990 to play ASU right before Christmas on December 22, 2018. Really, wouldn’t have been difficult to get KU to sign a “home-and-home” if the ASU version of “home” was downtown Phoenix. In years where the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City is not hosting the NCAA Tournament, KU routinely schedules one game a year there. KU would have swapped dates for “neutral-site” games reasonably easily. For Arizona State to entice Kansas to actually play them on campus is an enormously positive event.

Arizona State basketball has had very little force behind it for years. Herb Sendek is a very good man but he completely failed at energizing the fan base. Rarely were big opponents coming to Tempe. Rule number one for Bobby Hurley to bring fans to Wells Fargo Arena is to win. The second-best way to bring fans is to put teams in the arena fans want to see. A great way to increase ticket sales and basketball revenue is sell more season tickets. Playing a Marquette or a Texas Tech isn’t bad, as ASU has in recent years, but the average fan doesn’t jump to get season tickets to ensure their seat. Kansas is such a huge opponent, some fans might even buy season tickets next year just to ensure season tickets for 2018 when KU brings their sea of fans to flood the arena.

I’m a huge college basketball junkie. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Very few people know what a crazy basketball town Dayton is but there are 12,000 fans every UD Flyer home game. Dayton hosts the “First Four” every NCAA Tournament because it’s the only city in America that would almost sell out four games with eight teams that rarely have regional ties. Passion for college basketball is all I know, so I love what’s happening here in Phoenix. Legendary Sun Dan Majerle is at GCU. One of the greatest college basketball players of all-time in Bobby Hurley is running the show at ASU. Louisville comes to GCU. The Final Four comes to Phoenix in a month. Now, one of the true blue bloods of college basketball comes to Tempe in a non-conference Christmas special in 2018. We’re not there yet, but it would be a dream to live in a college basketball town like I did twice in my life.

Congratulations, Devil fans.

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