Armed with a 20-7 overall mark and a 9-5 conference record, the Arizona State basketball team appeared primed to shock the college basketball landscape.
On Feb. 20, the Sun Devils defeated the Washington State Cougars to reach the 20-victory plateau and put themselves within striking distance of making the NCAA tournament.
But over the next three weeks, coach Herb Sendek's squad played its way out of the tournament picture and suffered the ultimate disappointment.
Arizona State failed to secure a bid to the big dance.
At the beginning of the season, fans and perhaps even some players would have been satisfied with the notion of finishing with 22 wins and an NIT appearance. However, things change.
These same fans had a chance to experience the magic of Jahii Carson, the sudden improvement of Carrick Felix, and the feelings associated with picking up quality victories against opponents such as UCLA, Cal and Colorado.
By mid February, the Sun Devils were no longer the team the Pac-12 media picked to finish 11th in the conference.
Arizona State was a contender, and deserved to be treated as such.
After defeating Washington State, the Sun Devils faced a brutal four-game stretch that their tournament berth hinged on.
Washington, UCLA, USC and Arizona stood in the way of drawing consideration from the selection committee, and winning these games meant Arizona State could reach the promise land.
Instead, the Sun Devils faltered, and they did so in the worst possible way.
Arizona State dropped its final home game of the season to an athletic Washington squad that held Carson and company to just 57 points.
The Sun Devils followed up the loss with an overtime struggle against the Bruins in which they simply ran out of gas.
When the USC game rolled around, the Sun Devils played as if they had the life sucked out of them as a brutal first half from the floor doomed their hopes of stealing a victory.
Finally, the maroon and gold had one last-ditch chance at adding to their resume and knocking off the Arizona Wildcats.
Instead, the trip to Tucson resulted in a dismal 15-point defeat.
During the final three weeks of the regular season, Arizona State suffered a devastating collapse that left the Sun Devils NIT bound.
While the Sun Devils may not have been the most talented team in the Pac-12, they did make basketball exciting again.
Two consecutive down seasons and a number of crushing losses left the folks in Tempe with little to dream about, but the 2012-2013 team changed this.
Carson and Felix made basketball exciting again, and the Sun Devils' transition game ranked as one of the true joys to watch for college basketball fans this winter.
Perhaps another 10-win season may not have broken hearts the way this team did over its final four conference games.
However, this team made people believe, and that's why the late-season collapse hurts so bad.