Hurley jabs NCAA NET rankings, says he should have scheduled Big 12

Feb 28, 2023, 9:49 AM | Updated: 12:14 pm

The glee Arizona State (20-9) experienced by dropping a top-10 rival on the road with a three-quarter-court buzzer-beater on Saturday did translate to the Sun Devils’ postseason resume.

The win against the Arizona Wildcats, on the swish at the horn by Desmond Cambridge Jr., moved ASU from 67th in the NCAA NET rankings to 59th, firmly placing the team on the bubble but needing more work to solidify an NCAA Tournament berth.

Yes, it’s late in the season and such a win doesn’t lead to as much movement as it would in December. But the Wildcats, for falling to 24-5 on the season, dropped to 11th in the NET ratings, affirming that ASU’s victory was pretty darn impressive.

It emphasizes that the NET statistic, which plays a hand in how tournament teams are seeded and accepted, strongly favors specific conferences and teams at this point.

“I don’t know how we move eight spots in the NET,” Hurley said when he joined Bickley & Marotta on Arizona Sports Tuesday. “It didn’t make any sense to me when you win a game like that. Anyone that knows college basketball, I mean, just look at the sheer numbers, the record that Arizona has at home (15-2) and that they’re unbeatable there. They’re one of the top offensive teams in the country, they have a great inside game.

“They played well and we beat them. It wasn’t like it was a bad game and someone had to win it and we happened to hit a miracle shot or whatever … it’s a game you would see in an Elite Eight.”

Hurley pointed to road wins at Oregon and Colorado, plus neutral-site wins against Michigan and Creighton as, he would think, helpful to the Sun Devils’ postseason resume.

By NET, those teams are not top-50 clubs, with the exception of Creighton (16). So by the math, those don’t carry as much weight.

But it’s notable that Arizona State is 9-8 in Quads 1 and 2, with an 11-1 record in Quads 3 and 4 that go toward the NET rankings.

It’s curious that right behind ASU in NET is Sam Houston, which is 18-6 in the WAC but has only six games played against Quad 1 and 2 clubs. Behind Sam Houston is a 12-17 Ohio State team that’s gone 6-16 against those two top groupings.

Long story short, conference matters, and Arizona State is being penalized for the NET rankings’ unimpressed judgment — fair or not — with the Pac-12.

“I don’t think for whatever reason we are (given our due), and that’s beyond our control,” Hurley said of the Sun Devils specifically.

On the other side of things, the Big 12 has stood out with a deep group of clubs. That conference includes three teams with fewer than 20 wins who are in the top 26 clubs in NET: TCU (19-10), West Virginia (17-13) and Iowa State (17-12).

“You almost wish you had a crystal ball and you could figure out, hey, which league should I schedule in non-conference?” Hurley said. “You do the best you can. We went to Brooklyn, across-country to play a top-20 team in Michigan and more than handled our business … then you figure you’re scheduling Creighton, a top-10 team, so you feel like you’re doing your part in terms of building a schedule.

“I guess we should have had a Big 12 (team) on our schedule. That’s my bad.”


Hurley on his celebration after Cambridge hit his game-winner against Arizona: “I mean, it was an out-of-body experience. I’ve had it go against me, I’ve had it as a player happen for me. It’s indescribable. I didn’t know where to go. I lost it. I was just so excited for the kids. It was such a hostile environment, such a tough place to play (at McKale Center). It’s one of the top places I’ve ever been to in terms of environment.

“To get down 10, to be able to fight back the way the kids did, to show that type of grit, resiliency. It was a great game to be a part of, too. I thought it was a very well-played game, a high-level game.”

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