ASU Basketball: Sun Devils aim to play their best basketball of the season in return to NCAA Tournament

Ethan Miller

The Sun Devils know they aren't heading into the tournament with a lot of momentum. However now that they are officially in the big dance, they are determined to make some noise in March.

Finally, the Arizona State men's basketball team has something to smile about. After three consecutive losses to end the season, including a 21-point loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Sun Devils received some good news.

For the first time since 2009, the Sun Devils are going dancing.

Arizona State was selected as the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region. The Sun Devils will meet the Texas Longhorns Thursday night in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Good news and Arizona State basketball haven't necessarily gone together recently, as Arizona State comes into the tournament losing five of its final seven games. However, on Sunday afternoon it was all smiles for the Sun Devils.

"When our name went up on the screen there was tremendous joy and excitement in the room," Herb Sendek said. "As a coach, being able to stand in the back and watch our guys celebrate like that is about as good as it gets."

However, Selection Sunday was not entirely without some anxiety, as the Sun Devils waited to hear their name called. Over half the field was introduced before Arizona State was finally shown in the third region revealed.

"Yeah, definitely," said Jordan Bachynski when asked if there were any tense moments waiting. "Any time you don't see your name pop up right away it's nerve-wracking. There's always in the back of your mind, 'did we make it, did we make it,' but there is no better feeling than seeing it pop up."

This trip to the NCAA Tournament marks the second time in eight years that Herb Sendek has led Arizona State to the NCAA tournament.

In 2009, the Sun Devils were a six seed, defeating the Temple Owls in the first round before losing to Syracuse in the Round of 32. Arizona State has not advanced to the Sweet 16 since 1995.

"Anything can happen now,"Jahii Carson said. "I've seen a lot of guys step up to the plate and play some of their best basketball in the tournament. I know that it's a big stage and I know that we are going to step up and play. I've dreamed of playing in it, I think we can do something special."

The Sun Devils and Longhorns are scheduled to play Thursday evening around 6:40 p.m. PT, depending on when the game before finishes.

That game pits No. 2 seed Michigan against No. 15 seed Wofford. If Arizona State wins, the Sun Devils will most likely play the Wolverines, who won the Big Ten regular season title.

First Sendek and company must get by Texas, a team that ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding and led the Big 12 in offensive rebounding.

"They are tournament bred every year," Carson said about Texas. "They have great players, they beat great teams but I think we are confident that we have great players too. We can play with anybody in the country."

Arizona State will practice Monday before departing for the Midwest on Tuesday. The goal is clear: play its best basketball of the season.

For players like Carson and Bachynski, they are determined to make their first and last NCAA Tournament appearance memorable.

"My whole career we have never been in the tournament," Bachynski said. "And we now we finally made it. We are part of March Madness. You are going to see us play some of the best basketball we have all year. We believe in ourselves."

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