LAS VEGAS — College basketball fans from State 48 couldn’t have asked for a better storyline ahead of Friday night’s Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinal games in Las Vegas.
In-state rivals No. 6 Arizona State and No. 2 Arizona will be playing a season series rubber match for a spot in the conference tournament championship game.
“I said after it felt like an Elite 8 type of game,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said of his last games against Arizona. “The scoring, the shot-making… It was an early glimpse into March Madness and what that's all about. “
The Wildcats, who are defending their Pac-12 championship, won in Tempe on New Year’s Eve but less than two weeks ago, ASU’s Desmond Cambridge Jr. hit the shot heard around the state that sealed the win for the Sun Devils in Tucson.
“That last game? That was amazing. It’s going be hard to overcome that in terms of the feeling,” Cambridge Jr. said. “But I've never experienced a Pac-12 Championship either and I know that's going to feel good. So, to do that, we have to be a good team like Arizona.”
Arizona is in the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome in Vegas, but Bobby Hurley and his Sun Devils need this win if they want to go dancing. Arizona advanced to the semifinals after pulling out a 94-85 win against No. 10 Stanford, while the Sun Devils upset No. 4 USC 77-72 to meet the Wildcats on day three. Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd knows his players are battle-tested and up for the challenge against a team they’re very familiar with.
“Courtney [Ramey] is a special defender and when he climbs into the ball, he's hard to play against. That's one of the first things I really noticed about him when we got him,” Lloyd said. “And Oumar is one of the best paint rim protectors in the game and when he's moving his feet in there and active, he's tough to play against.”
Top-seeded UCLA and No. 4 Oregon are playing in the first semifinal game at T-Mobile Arena at 7 p.m. with ASU and Arizona tipping off at 9:30 p.m.
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