Hope runs high: ASU hoops teams await NCAA tourney bids

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                </div>  ‘The Watch’ has officially begun within the Arizona State basketball programs. After last night’s loss to Stanford in its first game of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils men’s […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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‘The Watch’ has officially begun within the Arizona State basketball programs.

After last night’s loss to Stanford in its first game of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils men’s team will be sitting on the sidelines while it awaits an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament – which is just what the women have been doing since being eliminated from the tourney in their first game as well.

It has been a little harder on the women, since they’ve been waiting for a week already after being beaten in their tournament by USC last Friday.  Both ASU teams were expected to win their games.  Not a good message to send to the NCAA selection committee.

Both teams also lost their final two games of the season, losing to the Oregon schools.  The men lost their final game in overtime, while the women were blown out by Oregon State, 66-43.  Not the best way to build momentum heading into a conference tournament.

Also not a good sign for a couple of teams considered on the bubble going into Selection Sunday for the men, or Monday, when the women’s field will be announced.

Despite that, both teams are optimistic about their chances.  The men would seem to be on somewhat firmer ground and most analysts are predicting they will get a berth in the tournament, but with a low seeding.  They were probably looking at something in the area of a No. 9 seed before yesterday, when a 21-point loss to Stanford may have dropped them even further.

There are striking similarities in how the season has progressed for both ASU teams, which have seesawed from winning streaks to losing skids throughout, particularly in the final weeks of the regular season.

The women started really strong, winning 13 of their 14 non-conference games and then played well during the Pac-12 schedule until going on a three-game slide in early February.  They recovered with a couple of critical wins against Colorado and Utah – only to drop the final three games, including the tournament loss.  Their 22-8 regular-season record and No. 20 national ranking will be their resume for tourney consideration.

The men, who closed out the regular season 22-8 overall and 10-8 in conference, have been inconsistent all year long, as head coach Herb Sendek has struggled to find a group with the right chemistry and the ability to get into an offensive rhythm.  Results of two games against Stanford illustrate the point.  In late February, ASU beat the Cardinal by 12 points and then got crushed by 21 in  yesterday’s quarterfinals.

Despite an earth-shaking overtime win against then-No. 2 Arizona in mid-February, the Devils haven’t been able to string together more than three wins since entering 2014 and closed out the regular season by losing four out of their final six games.  The early tourney exit left them with three straight losses for the first time this season as they try to keep their hopes up for an NCAA bid.

An RPI ranking of 37 should be enough to get them into the Big Dance for the first time since 2009, but there is nothing predictable about the selection process.

Both of ASU’s teams this year have exceeded expectations.  The men were picked by the media in the pre-season to finish seventh in the Pac-12; they ended the regular season tied for third.  The women have turned their 10th-place projection upside down to finish tied for fourth with an 11-7 conference mark.

But right now they are both looking a little more like their pre-season projections – and at the worse possible time.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)