Just two weeks ago, Arizona State was 9-16 and there was no hope for 2010-2011. The seniors were either injured or not playing many minutes and the unseasoned youth was getting its fair shot at the playing time. After wondering whether or not the Sun Devils would win any home games in Pac-10 play this year, they closed out the season by defeating Washington State, Oregon, and Oregon State at Wells Fargo Arena.
Going 3-2 over your final five games is nothing to brag about, that's for sure. But how can you not be pleased at the improvement that ASU has shown since mid-February? In games against the Ducks and the Beavers, the Sun Devils outscored their competition by a total of 34 points. ASU put up an astounding 40 three pointers against Oregon State, making an impressive 42.5% of the attempts.
This team is playing well, despite their poor record. The seniors refused to hang their heads and let this season continue to spiral downward; rather, they took care of business against teams that shouldn't win road games in conference play. Despite this effort, the Devils are still the 10th seed in the Pac-10 Tournament, and have drawn the Oregon Ducks, who occupy the 7th seed. What should we expect on Wednesday evening? In a word, victory.
ASU defeated Oregon both at home and on the road in 2011, and there's little doubt that a motivated Sun Devils squad can pick up a victory in the first round of this tournament. The Ducks are stumbling into postseason play, losing four straight conference games to end the regular season. They put up a fight against Pac-10 champ Arizona on Saturday before bowing out 90-82 in Tucson.
During ASU and Oregon's last contest, Ducks guard Jay-R Stowbridge scored 17 points to pace his team. Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks both scored 22 points and were shooting the ball well from beyond the arc. The Sun Devils shot 36 threes and made 16 of them. Does it surprise anyone that this team shot 76 threes in their final two games -- and won both of them? Feast or famine is the only way to describe this group of streaky shooters.
Should the Devils defeat the Ducks on Wednesday evening (tipoff is at 9:40 P.M. Arizona time on Fox Sports Arizona), they would draw a matchup with the 2nd-seeded UCLA Bruins on Thursday evening at 7:10 P.M. Arizona time. They have already been defeated by the Bruins twice this season, but the Sun Devils showed they were capable of keeping it close with UCLA on January 22, when the Bruins defeated ASU 73-72 in overtime in Tempe.
No one should expect ASU to get any further than the second round of the Pac-10 Tournament, but as fans we'd love to see them strive to make it as far as possible. After a rough season, ending on a high note is a moral victory that feels good for all involved, especially considering the amount of pain that goes into losing so many conference games during January and February. But still, dare to dream, Devil fans.
The winner of a UCLA/ASU matchup would play the winner of Washington and Washington State, and the Devils would have to hope for a huge Cougar upset. The Sun Devils aren't capable of defeating either the Huskies or the Arizona Wildcats, who are likely in the way of the biggest BCS-conference tournament run in NCAA basketball history.
Lets take it one game at a time. Go Devils!