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Familiar coaches, transfers when Nevada faces Arizona State in First Four
A pair of No. 11 seeds led by high-profile coaches square off when Nevada takes on Arizona State in a First Four play-in game Wednesday at Dayton, Ohio.
The winner will advance to play No. 6 seed TCU on Friday in Denver in a West Regional first-round game.
The storylines will be rich in this showdown as Arizona State (22-12) has benefitted greatly from two Nevada transfers who left Steve Alford’s program after the 2021-22 season and are now playing for Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. is a point guard for the Sun Devils and 7-footer Warren Washington is a force near the basket.
“It’s ironic that it played out the way it did,” said Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, who hosted players at his home before jumping in a swimming pool to celebrate. “It was chaos in my house. I’ll get their thoughts as we go. I don’t know how much more motivation you need, really. You’re in the NCAA Tournament. Yeah, it is a subplot, certainly, of a storyline certainly for the NCAA Tournament.”
Cambridge was named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team after averaging 16 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists while adding a tournament-best 3.0 steals per game. In the victory over USC, Cambridge led the way with 27 points and seven rebounds.
Cambridge was extremely active defensively in the semifinal loss to Arizona, setting a new career-high with five steals. Cambridge landed on the All-Pac-12 second team after winning the Pac-12 in Player of the Week Award on three different occasions.
Washington started all 32 games he played in this season, averaging 9.2 points and 6.9 rebounds.
The Wolf Pack (22-10) are making their 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and captured the final at-large bid to the tournament after losing to San Jose State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament.
“I’m extremely excited and couldn’t be happier for our guys,” Nevada’s Alford said. “They have they worked their tails off to turn around the season like last year. They’ve been working hard since April. We just had one bad week. And in that bad week, we had two OT losses.”
Other Mountain West teams joining Nevada in the tournament are San Diego State, Boise State and Utah State.
“I’m so appreciative of the (selection) committee giving our league the respect that I think our league deserves,” said Alford, who is in his fourth season at Nevada and previously spent six seasons at New Mexico. “This my 10th year in this league, and top to bottom is filled up the hardest, best league of those 10 years.”
The selection marks the Pack’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2019 and will be Alford’s 12th career appearance in the tournament. It will also represent the fifth different school that Alford has taken to the NCAA Tournament, which ties the NCAA record with Lon Kruger, Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino.
Nevada holds an all-time record of 6-9 in the NCAA Tournament with two Sweet Sixteen appearances (2004, 2018).
Alford is 11-11 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen four different times (1999, 2014, 2015, 2017).
The Sun Devils have made the NCAA Tournament for the 17th time in program history and third under Hurley. It is the second-most tournament appearances for a Sun Devils head coach.
Arizona State is coming off a crucial run at the Pac-12 tournament that improved its tournament resume, making the semifinal round for only the fourth time in program history. Arizona State was seeded No. 6 after finishing the regular season at 11-9 in conference play.