Selection Sunday wasn’t supposed to be too stressful for the Sun Devils. After a 12-0 non-conference start, ASU was expected to only be concerned with it’s seeding rather than its outright selection.
But then ASU went 8-11 in a mediocre Pac-12 conference. It lost five of its last six games. And seemingly just needing one more win to secure a spot in the tournament, ASU fell in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament with 97-85 loss to Colorado.
As a result, Sun Devil players and coaches had to sweat out their NCAA Tournament birth for four days. That’s four days deciding how their resume stacks up against other bubble teams and hoping that no one steals an automatic bid.
“You put yourself through hell, because I put us in that position,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said. “Unfortunately to where we had to scramble and we didn’t close out some games we could’ve closed out.”
The nervousness wasn’t just limited to Hurley, either. ASU held its Selection Sunday watch party at Hurley’s house and Sun Devil seniors Tra Holder and Kodi Justice drove there together.
Holder said that the two were “just a bunch of mixed emotions.” So naturally, they stopped for a pre-watch party meal to cure their nerves — chowing down three doughnuts each, according to Holder.
The Los Angeles native wasn’t too concerned with what other teams were doing after ASU’s first-round Pac-12 Tournament exit. He noted that he only watched two college basketball games last weekend, both were Rhode Island games — the team that Hurley’s brother, Dan, coaches.
Justice and Hurley, however, knew exactly where ASU stood. They were watching how every bubble team preformed, hoping that ASU was still alive along the way.
“It was excruciating. You’re watching so many games, thinking about possibilities – which teams are winning, which teams are losing and how that impacts your chances,” Hurley said. “I knew it was going to go right down to the wire.”
Justice added: “I probably haven’t watched this much basketball or payed attention this much in the last couple days. It was defiantly nerve-wracking but just thank the lord that we made it.”
Holder and Justice are seniors. If ASU’s pitchfork didn’t come across the screen on Sunday, that was it. The duo wouldn’t have gotten another chance to go to the tourney.
Holder said he was “afraid to see what happened,” but Hurley’s reaction gave it away pretty quick. The third-year ASU coach jumped up and quickly found Justice for an embrace, right before the whole team jumped in the pool.
LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/QWTFfz35wi— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) March 11, 2018
The Devils just barely cracked the field of 68. They’ll be taking part in the First Four in Dayton, OH, and with a win over fellow 11-seed Syracuse on Wednesday, ASU will get into the field of 64 and travel to Detroit to play 6-seed TCU.
But as Hurley mentioned on Sunday, ASU is still in the tournament.
“If you’re in the tournament, that’s all that matters,” Hurley said. “We’re in Dayton and that means that we have a chance to compete for a championship.
“If your name wasn’t called you can’t do that.”