Last season, Sun Devil women’s basketball finished its season in the Sweet 16, falling to a powerful No. 4 Mississippi State. 2018-19 was the first time ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne had her squad advance to the round since 2015 and fifth time in her tenure.
The 2019-20 season will prove to be the sixth Sweet 16 appearance and the first time in back-to-back campaigns under Turner Thorne.
The Sun Devils currently sit at No. 20 in the country, the fifth-highest in a very strong Pac-12 conference, putting them in prime position to compete at the highest level.
“I’ve been telling everybody, ‘were going to be faster, we are more athletic. We are going to play faster,’” Turner Thorne said in a press conference following an 87-56 victory over Airforce on Tuesday. “We have a lot of pieces this year. It’s just continuing to put them together.”
That speed will come to help the Sun Devils in conference play. ASU’s Pac-12 schedule currently features seven games against ranked opponents, all of them at No. 11 or higher.
The biggest test of that strategic speed will come against the defending National Player of the Year. Award-winning Sabrina Ionescu led Oregon, who sits atop all preseason polls. Ionescu will be a tough test for ASU guards and its up-tempo offense.
Look for Sun Devils to finish fourth in the Pac-12 and fall in the championship game of the conference tournament to the Ducks.
ASU’s resume in the Pac-12 will be favorable for a high seed, increasing the chances of a Sweet 16 return. In Charlie Creme’s latest Bracketology with ESPN, the Devils sit with a No. 5 seed in the tournament, traveling to the University of Texas for the first two rounds.
Turner Thorne will have ASU's stock rising by the end of the year, and the Sun Devils will host a regional with no worse than a No. 4 seed.
"We are young," Turner Thorne said. "They're just learning to be consistent. We had a couple of good runs. Now, the key is just learning how to sustain it."
The aspect that allows ASU to play with an up-tempo style is the fact that anyone, with the exception of senior forward Jamie Ruden, can run the fast break.
"When your fours or your fives can run your break, good luck in transition defense," Turner Thorne said.
Speed will be the Sun Devils' key to reach the Sweet 16 in consecutive seasons. A feat that ASU hasn't accomplished since 1983.
"We are really talented with our freshman and our sophomores," Turner Thorne said. "We're going to be a lot deeper on the perimeter than we have been ever in (our seniors' careers)."
Sun Devil fans, its time to pack Desert Financial Arena to watch the high-speed chase that is ASU women's basketball.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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