One last game… ASU, UA basketball still hanging in there

As if carefully scripted, the ASU and UofA basketball games last night played out very similarly.  Both schools won over L.A. teams, both won by five points, and both had to fight hard for one more win in a desperate run to season’s end.

For the Sun Devils (21-9, 11-6), their 59-54 victory over USC kept them in consideration as a ‘bubble’ team as the NCAA tournament shapes up.  For the Wildcats, it keeps hope alive that they can finish with a record above .500.   Their 78-73 win over UCLA puts them at 15-14, 9-8.

The pulse is extremely faint for Wildcat hopes of post-season play.  In fact, the bracketologists have, for the most part, thrown dirt on them.  They would have to win their finale tomorrow against USC and then have a great run through the Pac-10 tournament to even think about going anywhere.  Of course, a tournament title would get them the automatic bid – and avoid not being invited to the Big Dance for the first time in 25 years.

For ASU, it’s a little more complicated.   The win over USC keeps their hope alive for a share of the Pac-10 crown, but it would require a win over UCLA tomorrow and – and this is the kicker – Stanford would have to upset No. 1 California tomorrow.

Just about any other combination after last night’s win would result in a second seed in the Pac-10 tournament.  The most likely scenario would have ASU beating UCLA and Cal beating Stanford, giving the Devils second place in conference and a second seed in the tourney.  But the Devils still will need a good tournament run to strengthen their position for an at-large bid.

But it’s also possible that the Devils would have to share second place in the conference, should they lose to UCLA and Washington wins both of their games against the Oregon schools.  Washington beat Oregon last night, so that scenario is still alive.

Last night’s brawl with USC was probably good for the Devils, helping them to prepare for the tournament.  There were 11 lead changes in a game that went right down to the final minute.  And offensively, the Devils built momentum as the game wore on, hitting 56 percent of their shots in the second half.

The Cats had to work for their win as well, forced to come back from as many as 14 points down at one point in the second half.  It wasn’t really wrapped up until Nic Wise canned four free throws in the final 12 seconds of the game.  This was after Kyle Fogg scored 19 of his career-high 26 points in the second half, including five of his six from three-point land.

Saturday wraps up another season for both teams.  But neither will know its post-season fate until they finish up one more Pac-10 tournament.

Until then, they’ll have to take a seat on the bubble.

(Photo credit: ASU Athletics)