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Pac-12 WBB roundup: Arizona State to make Pac-12 debut Friday night against No. 22 Colorado

Jan 20, 2022
Arizona State Athletics

“Never in a million years did I think we’d be doing this again,” said Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne.

The Sun Devils will make their Pac-12 debut four weeks into the conference schedule on Friday night in Tempe against No. 22 Colorado.

Their 8-5 record also includes six Pac-12 postponements and a COVID-pause that began following a December 30 nonconference finale against Lipscomb.

It’s been a weeks-long odyssey of positive tests, contact tracing and watching a hunk of the season pass them by.

“We are going to have to play three games a week starting this weekend,” Turner Thorne said, describing the likely schedule of makeup games that await her team. “I think we’ve got an NCAA game, but we just have to recover from this.”

That recovery will begin with a challenging weekend set against the Buffaloes, whose unbeaten record was pierced by back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon State last weekend, and a Utah team that played the second-ranked Cardinal close deep into the fourth quarter and has the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense.

Arizona State has an NCAA NET ranking of 42 and a 6-1 record at home this season. The Sun Devils have rebounded from a 2-4 start that included losses to Minnesota, BYU and Baylor - to win six of their next seven games before their pause.

Turner Thorne has been happy about her team’s offense to this point, but says the Sun Devils’ defense — usually the program’s bread and butter — will need to catch up.

And the break has allowed her team to get healthy enough for her to be able to go 10-deep, which will be needed considering the number of games now on the schedule in a compressed period of time.

“We are pretty healthy, so let’s see how we suck it up for these games,” Turner Thorne said. “I can’t really push them because of all of the protocols. This has been a long and slow process. Which it should be. We don’t really know what could happen. Everybody is boosted and we are doing everything we can do to keep everybody healthy. But this experience taught me that there are just things we don’t know.”

Arizona State has been hobbled by injuries throughout the nonconference schedule, starting with a season-ending injury in October to freshman Meg Newman, ASU’s top incoming freshman. The team that started three freshmen a season ago, has more experience, but has missed the presence of Jayde Van Hyfte, who has appeared in just six games, as well as limited availability from transfers Ayzhiana Basallo and Isadora Sousa.

Mael Gilles, the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder, and Maggie Besselink missed ASU’s last game on December 30 and haven’t played since before Christmas.

The backcourt of Jade Loville, Taya Hanson and Jaddan Simmons has been setting the pace, combining to average nearly 34 points a game.

Turner Throne said she was asked earlier this week if this feels like the start of the season all over again. And for the coach, it does.

“It’s just been so long. I know my team is very hungry to play and I also know we’ve lost alot. We have a lot of conditioning to make up. But they are young. That will help.

“We are just going to try and show up and play good basketball. We have work to do. But there are plenty of games and plenty of time left. I know when we get to the first quarter of this first game, I’ll just need to take a breath and say ‘Well, let’s see how this goes.’”

The rescheduling continues

The schedule juggling has continued with the addition of two games next Wednesday - Utah at Oregon at 11 a.m. PT and Arizona at UCLA at 5 p.m. PT. 

Nothing but NET

The quality of a conference isn’t necessarily determined solely by the number of teams it places in the national rankings, but by how it’s viewed by the NCAA NET rankings, which the women’s selection committee will use to make its tournament decisions in a couple of months. The NCAA began using the NET rankings for the first time in 2021.

“NET” stands for NCAA Evaluation Tool, a sorting tool to measure a team’s quality and to help quantify a team’s resume for selection and seeding into the NCAA Tournament. The NET has become the game’s new standard for comparative evaluation, largely replacing the RPI.

NET rankings are determined by two components — data (measuring overall performance during the regular season) — and results, ranking teams higher than play and beat high-quality opponents.

If we use 68 as the cutoff (based on the new 68-team field) for teams that look as if they could be tournament worthy, there are nine Pac-12 teams on that list. And while a NET ranking doesn’t guarantee a spot in the bracket, it’s a strong indication how a team is viewed based on its body of work.

The nine teams are No. 3 Stanford, No. 10 Arizona, No. 12 Oregon, No. 19 Utah, No. 31 Colorado, No. 42 Arizona State, No. 48 UCLA, No. 50 Oregon State, and No. 61 USC. Washington State is just outside at No. 70.