Pac-12 foes Colorado and Arizona State tip off the season Friday night, but the game won't count in the conference standings and nor will it take place in Boulder or Tempe. Instead, the Buffaloes and Sun Devils will square off in Shanghai in the annual Pac-12 China Game.
This marks the fifth straight season that the Pac-12 has had a team play in China, but it will be the first pitting two conference teams against each other. Arizona State departed for China on Friday, and the Colorado contingent followed a day later. The teams are spending the week touring the country with various cultural and educational events planned as well as youth basketball clinics, and the main unspoken goal is avoiding the international and political controversy that surrounded the previous month's NBA exhibition games in the country. Both teams warmed up for the opener with exhibition contests Wednesday against Chinese collegiate squads in Suzhou as the Sun Devils cruised past Peking University 113-64 while the Buffaloes routed Tsinghua University 109-42.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT COLORADO (2018-19: 23-13): Coach Tad Boyle brings back one of the nation's most experienced teams with all five starters returning, including 2018-19 All-Pac-12 first-team selections McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey, and nearly 95 percent of its rebounding, assists, blocks and steals production from a season ago when the Buffaloes advanced to the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and the NIT quarterfinals. Wright, a junior entering his third season as the Buffs' starting point guard, averaged 13 points and 4.8 assists despite being hampered by a nagging shoulder injury that required offseason surgery while the 6-7 Bey (13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds) led the conference with 17 double-doubles a season ago to earn Pac-12 Most Improved Player recognition. Guards Shane Gatling (9.7 points) and D'Shawn Schwartz (9.2) and forward Lucas Siewert (8.9 points, 5.0 rebounds) also return as does junior 7-footer Dallas Walton who missed last season with his third ACL tear.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (2018-19: 23-11): Bobby Hurley's Sun Devils are the only Pac-12 team coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, and they're now eyeing the program's first three-year run of 20-win/NCAA tourney seasons since 1963. ASU does have to replace leading scorer Lugentz Dort (16.1 points) and Pac-12 top rebounder Zylan Cheatham (10.3, 12.1 points) but has three returning starters to build around, including guards Remy Martin (12.9 points, 5.0 assists) and Rob Edwards (11.1 points). Forward Romello White (8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds) also is back, and Hurley and the Sun Devils are excited about the potential of guard Alonzo Verge, Jr., a junior-college All-American a season ago who averaged 30.9 points and shot 41.8 percent from 3-point range at Moberly (Mo.) Area Community College.
1. Colorado has won five of the nine head-to-head meetings over the last five seasons, including a 97-85 victory in the opening round of the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
2. The Buffaloes were just edged out by Oregon (291-288 points) for the top spot in the Pac-12 preseason media poll while the Sun Devils (187 points) were picked to finish sixth.
3. Colorado's Bey and Wright and Arizona State' Martin were selected to the media's 10-man preseason All-Pac 12 team.