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UA dominating Territorial Cup on, off the court


The Territorial Cup is becoming increasingly one-sided, and that’s not good news if you’re an ASU fan.

This weekend, the ASU women’s basketball team will travel to the McKale Center in Tucson for a Saturday showdown, while the men will host the Wildcats on Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena. It will be the latest installment in a rivalry that dates back to 1899, when ASU, then known as the Arizona Territorial Normal School, dominated the first football game between the two schools.

Things have changed quite a bit since then.

UA now has a stranglehold on this rivalry, and this grip is sure to become tighter in the coming years. The results of the Territorial Cup thus far in 2011-12 indicate the series momentum already lies with athletes in red and blue, as UA currently has a 6.5–2.5 lead over ASU.

But this year’s Territorial Cup standings don’t even tell half the story.

The schools’ marquee sports — football and men’s basketball — highlight the serious discrepancies between the ASU and UA athletic programs.

On the court, the Wildcat men have taken 28 out of the last 35 contests from the Sun Devils. UA already posted a double-digit victory against ASU this year, and the struggling Sun Devils won’t surprise anyone if they get blown out once again this weekend.

The series isn’t even as close as the record implies, either. Of the seven victories the Sun Devils have recorded in their past 35 match-ups with the Wildcats, four came against UA interim head coaches following the legendary Lute Olson’s departure from Tucson. In those four wins, a future NBA superstar, James Harden — a player whose talent Sun Devil fans might not see the likes of again for a long, long time — carried ASU.

Also, consider the fact the Wildcats aren’t just dominating the rivalry on the floor, they’re dominating off of it, too. UA coach Sean Miller, who was Herb Sendek’s assistant for five seasons at North Carolina State, is schooling the ASU coach. Miller is currently 4–1 against Sendek and has the upper hand in recruiting between the two schools. UA just brought in the top recruiting class in the nation for 2012, and Miller has shown a knack for wooing blue-chip prospects from all over the nation.

Meanwhile, the Sun Devils’ 2012 recruiting class isn’t even on the radar. Oh, and ASU’s top recruit from 2011, freshman phenom guard Jahii Carson, has been ineligible to play all season long.

Things don’t get much better outside of the basketball arena. ASU’s much-hyped football team stumbled its way to a 6–7 record this year, including an upset loss at home to UA on Nov. 19. While the Sun Devils may have had a more successful season than the 4–8 Wildcats, next year doesn’t bode well for ASU. The Sun Devils lost the majority of their offensive line, their star middle linebacker, their quarterback and many others, while their counterparts down south took several steps forward with the hiring of nationally acclaimed coach Rich Rodriguez.

Of course, ASU hired a new football general of their own last December, a move that underlined the enormous difference in quality between the school’s athletic directors.  The hiring of Todd Graham was a debacle for ASU, as Sun Devils’ Athletic Director Lisa Love bumbled and stumbled her way past numerous quality prospects — Kevin Sumlin of Houston, Jim McElwain of Alabama, to name a few — before eventually settling for a guy who posted a mediocre 6–6 regular season record at Pittsburgh last year. At least Wildcats’ AD Greg Byrne, who swooped up Rodriguez this past November, has a clue as to what he’s doing.

This is only the beginning, Sun Devil fans. The foundation has been laid in each city — a shaky one in Tempe and a solid one in Tucson.

Now watch the gap grow wide.

Reach the columnist at kjnewma2@asu.edu

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