Why The Men's Hoops Team Is Playing At America West Arena On Thursday...

Dec. 10, 2001

A lot of Sun Devil fans have been wondering why ASU is playing its men's basketball game versus Montana State at America West Arena this Thursday, Dec. 13, which is a good question. The main reason is that due to scheduling conflicts with Wells Fargo Arena during commencement week, no other date could be scheduled. With ASU not being in an exempt tournament this year (ASU had to take a year off as it has played in an exempt tournament every year since 1996-97 and will go to Maui again next fall), ASU's first game could not be until the weekend of Nov. 17. Add in the fact that ASU opens the Pac-10 season before the holidays for the first time since 1989 due to the Pac-10 Tournament taking place in early March, dates are scarce. Also, consider that we need to schedule around women's basketball, volleyball in November and wrestling.

At one time, the 2001-02 Sun Devil schedule featured games with Texas and Colorado State. Due to coaching staff changes at those institutions, both games were cancelled. Getting schools to agree to play is one thing, but matching dates is quite another. The only date that could fit both ASU and MSU's schedules was Dec. 13.

With Wells Fargo Arena was being used for commencement, the only other option was to use either AWA or the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. Since ASU played the Southwest Showdown at AWA last Tuesday, it was decided to play the game there because logistically, everyone would be familiar with the building.

Assembling a basketball schedule is a difficult and tedious process. Factors come into play such as convincing an opponent to play, matching up dates that work for both schools, agreeing on contract terms, agreeing on officials, etc.

But perhaps the largest obstacle that affects the way schedules are constructed is the window of dates the NCAA allows to play contests. The NCAA gives each school 136 days to play a 28-game slate each season. That sounds like ample time, until you break it down. For example:

*Delete 16 Sundays between November and March because ASU attempts to avoid playing on Sundays out of respect for the wishes of its fans and because of potential conflicts with the Arizona Cardinals in the fall.

*Delete eight days for ASU's Final Exams (Dec. 5-12 this year), the Sun Devils are not allowed to compete in any sports during final exams.

*Delete four days for any home games immediately following Final Exams due to commencement exercises in Wells Fargo Arena. The venue is prepared for this event. Next year, ASU will avoid the potential problem by playing Purdue in the Las Vegas Shootout on Dec. 21.

*Delete about two Saturdays each year due to home ASU football games. We try to avoid scheduling football and men's and women's basketball games on the same day. We even don't like to play a game at the same time we are on the road in football. That changes the radio broadcast station and crew.

*Delete about 5-7 days for Holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day and days before and after). We won't play games on New Year's Eve, Christmans Eve, etc. Also, if the Fiesta Bowl is not played on Jan. 1, that date is not good either.

*Delete seven days for the addition of the Pacific-10 Conference basketball tournament. ASU won't play a non-conference game at the end of the regular season.

*Delete 73 days (seven days in December, 31 days in January, 28 days in February and seven days in March) for the Pacific-10 Conference portion of the schedule. Although that number might seem like a lot, scheduling a non-conference game the week of two Pac-10 games will never happen. The only time that it could happen is the weekend of the bye week of the Arizona game, if that game is played on Wednesday, and many times getting non-conference opponents to play during their conference season is difficult. If ASU plays a home Pac-10 game on Saturday and leaves for a Pac-10 trip on Wednesday, no games can be played on Monday or Tuesday of that week.

*After all that was done, ASU had to schedule nine non-conference games on 19 available dates. That severely narrows the options when you factor in locating willing opponents and matching up dates. Plus, we have to leave open the day or two before and after the game to allow the team(s) ample time to prepare for the game.

We hope this insight into basketball scheduling helps you understand why some decisions are made. We hope it certainly answers the question of why ASU is playing Montana State at America West Arena. Thanks.

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