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posted 03.25.2011 at 9.07 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Morning Jac: Arizona St.'s Altitude Problem

Each member of the Arizona State men's lacrosse team, ranked No. 2 in MCLA Division I, landed in Denver yesterday morning and took a deep breath. And then another. Nothing to report there.

Tonight, when the Sun Devils take the field against No. 3 Colorado State in Fort Collins in the biggest non-varsity match-up of the weekend, those casual breaths could turn into gasps as the desert-bound ASU players deal with thin, mountain air.

Or is that all a big mind game by the Mile-Highers?

"I've played in Denver as a player and personally I didn't think it was a huge difference," said ASU head coach Chris Malone, who played his college ball at Maryland. "But our guys felt like it was when we played Cal Poly in the first game of the national tournament last year. There could be a little difference, but I think it's different for everybody. Everybody is breathing the same air, so if we have to play some more bodies, we'll do that."

Not so fast says Colorado State head man Alex Smith.

"I think it definitely matters," he said. "We were in Seattle last week and we came back [Monday]. We did a little conditioning and the players were dying. I think it has some effect. Of course, I'd like people to think that it really does."

Regardless, the Sun Devils are buying in. They came in Thursday -- nearly 36 hours before game time -- and plan on running a pair of practices at altitude in hopes of getting acclimated, according to Malone.

Fortunately for ASU, Smith believes that it only takes one game to get your mountain lungs. During the Sunday games between Arizona State and No. 6 Colorado and No. 18 Arizona at CSU, the altitude shouldn't have an impact.

"I don't think Arizona will have the same response," said Smith. "But in that first game in the fourth quarter you can be a little light on oxygen."

That's what the Rams are hoping for, anyway.

NOTE: Keep an eye out of the Weekender later today, which will go inside the Arizona State-Colorado State showdown this evening.

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