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ASU basketball: After loss to Stanford, Sun Devils looking on to Pac-12 Tournament

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It’s tournament time

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kodi Justice went to line line twice on Saturday. In both cases, he walked to the line with the shot clock turned off, shooting for the chance tie the game. He made just one of his three attempts — ASU lost 84-83 to Sanford.

Not even 20 minutes later, Justice walked into a packed media room, alone. He sat down at the table for nearly five minutes as reporters threw questions his way. As he reflected on everything from those free throws to his last four years, it was easy to see why the senior garners so much respect.

“Everyone has adversaries and he wants to win as bad as anybody on our team and most people that I’ve met in my life,” ASU head coach Bobby Hurley said of Justice. “He just doesn’t say it, he walks it, he talks it, he works on his game.

“He’s prepared for life and the next step.”

Saturday was emotional at Wells Fargo, and not just after the game. It was Senior Day, the last chance that the four seniors — Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II, Austin Witherill and Justice — who took the program to new heights would have to play at “The Bank.”

The seniors represent an ASU program coming out of its once dormant state — the class that Hurley and Co. hope will start a trend of even more success in Tempe. But, he wants, and thinks, that his group this year has a chance to make an even bigger mark.

”I love my chances with the group I have playing anybody that we’re going to play in the postseason, in Vegas and in the NCAA Tournament,” Hurley said.

Many may be scoffing at Hurley mentioning the NCAA Tournament. Some see the Devils as a bubble team, some see them as already in and others think all they need to do is win one more game.

For whose who think that the ASU that knocked off Kansas and Xavier is long gone, Hurley has a message for you.

“Even though there are some that might want to say that that part of the season was so long ago that it shouldn’t count, it does count. This is a season”

Hurley was oozing March confidence despite his team’s loss, and a lot of that is because he’s seen ASU beat good teams. He boasted a few times that he knows that it can beat anybody in the country because they already have.

The Devils will be in two more tournaments to close out the year. The second is still somewhat up in the air, the first, however, has been set for months.

ASU will travel to Vegas next week for the Pac-12 Tournament. But the team that started the season 12-0 won’t be getting a first-round bye, or even a late first-round game.

For the third time this season, ASU will face off against Colorado in the 8/9 game of the Pac-12 Tournament for what some believe will be the deciding factor in ASU’s NCAA Tournament quest.

And when asked what he will say to his team with the tournament coming up, Hurley was again, yep, you guessed it, confident.

“We’ve proven that we can beat some of the best teams in the country handily,” Hurley said. “Our tournament in Vegas, we’ve already won a championship in Vegas. So, that’s a positive that I know the guys remember how that felt.

He’s referencing the Devils’ Continental Tire Invitational Championship that came over Thanksgiving in which ASU really gained national steam after beating Kansas State and Xavier.

But, for its lasted trip to Vegas, Arizona State won’t be riding a win steak or really even have much momentum behind them. What the Devils do know, however, is that they are going to be in every game.

All nine of ASU’s losses this season have come by less than 10 points and there’s no reason to think that that will change anytime soon. Heck, on Saturday, ASU trailed by 19 at one point in the second half before storming back to tie the game up with about a minute to play.

“All of the close games just proves that you’re going to have to bring a very good game to the table to beat our team,” Hurley said. “And you’re going to have to play for 40 minutes, so get ready to play in the last minute or two.

“No team has defeated us where we’re just playing the last two minutes out.”