Aaron Bright, Jahii Carson

Will Saturday’s missed opportunity prove costly for Arizona State?

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Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils have been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises, as the addition of Jahii Carson and the improvement of Carrick Felix and Jordan Bachynski has resulted in an 18-6 record (7-4 Pac-12).

But come Selection Sunday, will we look back on their 62-59 loss to Stanford on Saturday night as the missed opportunity that ultimately leads to them not making the NCAA tournament?

The Sun Devils had plenty of chances to pick up the victory against a Stanford team that limped to the finish line just as they did on Wednesday night against No. 7 Arizona, including Dwight Powell throwing an inbounds pass off the Wells Fargo Arena scoreboard with seven tenths of a second remaining.

But ASU was unable to take advantage and the end result is a weekend split (they beat California on Thursday) ahead of a tough stretch to end the regular season.

Five of Arizona State’s final seven regular season games are on the road, beginning with a trip to Utah on Wednesday, and if that doesn’t seem like a difficult game because of the Utes’ record (10-13, 2-9) think again.

Arizona State won the first meeting 55-54 in overtime, surviving three Utah attempts at the game-winner in the final seconds. The front court tandem of Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn can challenge ASU’s big men, with Washburn tallying 19 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots in the first meeting.

Following that contest they visit Colorado, and after home games against Washington State and Washington the Sun Devils finish their season at UCLA, at USC and at Arizona. While a win over Stanford wouldn’t have made waves nationally, grabbing a weekend sweep would have moved Arizona State into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Arizona, Oregon and UCLA.

And with a non-conference resume headlined by wins over Arkansas (who followed up their win over Florida with a loss at Vanderbilt) and Texas Tech, the Sun Devils need all the conference victories they can get to make up for a non-conference strength of schedule that is ranked 282nd nationally according to warrennolan.com.

Arizona State has work to do in these final weeks, as do a number of teams across the country, and Saturday’s defeat may have raised the stakes for the Sun Devils.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

Nigel Hayes’ comment on basketball brands hits on greater point

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) drives on Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. Hayes had a team-high 21 points in Wisconsin's 79-68 win. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
AP Photo/Andy Manis
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Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.

Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.

Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.

“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”

Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.

But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.

Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

Providence's Kris Dunn reacts to his shot during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win