As far as challenges go, they don’t get much tougher than the one facing the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday when they hit the road to face the No. 1 ranked Arizona Wildcats.
Up to this point, 17 different teams have tried to beat the ‘Cats, and all 17 have failed.
The Sun Devils will be the next challenger, and coach Herb Sendek knows his team has its work cut out for it.
“It doesn’t change the way we prepare or our willingness to compete and do well, that’s for sure,” he told Bickley with Marotta Tuesday. “We’re going to go about our preparation like we always do, get ourselves ready to play and go out there and play as hard and as well as we possibly can.
“But make no mistake about it, Arizona is an outstanding team right now.”
The Sun Devils are not chopped liver, as they come into the game with a 13-4 record that includes a 2-2 mark in the Pac-12. They are coming off weekend split with the L.A. schools, knocking off USC while falling to UCLA.
With Jahii Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall leading the way, the Devils have hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament this season for the first time since 2009.
Certainly pulling off the upset Thursday would help, and Sendek is no stranger to beating a number one after having done so twice when he was the coach at North Carolina State.
But the Wildcats are undefeated and ranked number one for a reason, and the last time the Devils beat a top-ranked team was 1981, when they beat Oregon State 87-67. Arizona State is 1-7 all-time against No. 1 teams.
“We’re thinking about petitioning the Pac-12 to see if we can play six guys,” Sendek joked. “Not for the whole game, I know that would be unreasonable, but for selected moments and pockets, like if they were on a run or something like that, maybe we can just play six for a few minutes.”
All joking aside, Sendek said there really isn’t much his team will do differently to prepare for the Wildcats.
“Like we do when we play everybody on our schedule, it starts and ends with us,” he said. “Are we doing the things that we can control to the best of our ability?
“And that’s where we really try to focus our energy and our talents. What can we control, and if it’s something that’s within that realm let’s do it to the best of our ability.”
Tip-off in Tucson is set for 7:00 p.m. and the game can be heard on Arizona Sports, now on 98.7 FM.