There will more than just a little familiarity going on when Arizona State meets its first-round opponent in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament on Saturday.
The No. 3 seeded Sun Devils will be facing a UC Riverside team that tries to move the ball around like ASU does and puts plenty of defensive pressure on teams — just like ASU.
But that familiarity isn’t the only thing going on.
Associate head coach Meg Sanders knows Riverside coach John Margaritis very well — they coached together for 11 years and still talk to each other frequently.
Margaritis was at Northern Arizona from 1996-2004, where Sanders was the head coach from 1997-2003. They were both assistants to Charli Turner Thorne before that. They also were assistants at Fresno State prior to their tenure at NAU.
“Initially when you could have played 62 other teams, you are thinking, ‘Gosh, if it could be one of those other teams, great,’” Sanders said. “But then once it’s out of your hands you just focus on the task at hand.”
Indeed, after the selections were announced, the coaching staff went to work on researching UC Riverside and the other two teams in ASU’s side of the bracket — Louisville and Brigham Young. The Cardinals and Cougars meet in the 5 p.m. game at the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Saturday. ASU plays a half hour after the completion of that game.
Sanders said there isn’t an advantage playing against Margaritis’ team.
“I know that we talk a lot throughout the year so he and I have a good sense of each other’s programs even though we haven’t really watched one another that much,” Sanders said.
UC Riverside backup guard Vanessa Campillo went to Tucson Flowing Wells High and then played a year at Northern Arizona before transferring after the 2003-04 season. She hit a 3-pointer in the Big West semifinals to help secure a win over Long Beach State.
When ASU looks back at its most successful regular season ever, it can say it wasn’t just their traditional tough defense. The Devils finished first in the nation in assists (18.6 per game) and seventh in field goal percentage (47.4 percent). ASU also led the Pac-10 in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and steals.