For the sixth consecutive season, Arizona State (20-10) is seeded in the NCAA tournament. Though the accomplishment cannot go unnoticed, and it was without doubt the Devils would be dancing in March, the excitement of learning their opponent was deflated hours before scheduled.
ESPNU graphics during a college basketball show accidentally displayed the complete field of 64 despite the topic being the men’s tournament. The bracket was to be announced at 7 p.m. EDT/ 4 p.m. MST.
After the leak, the announcement show was moved up two hours and ASU’s previously scheduled ‘watch party’ was cancelled.
“We were starting practice,” coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “Someone came over and said ‘somebody leaked the bracket’, but it’s all good.”
Coach Turner Thorne was actually rather pleased that the anticipation of knowing their first opponent was out of the way.
“I hate sitting in that room, so I am totally okay with someone showing me on a phone who we are playing; where we are going.”
Seniors Kianna Ibis and Courtney Ekmark did not seem to mind the mistake either.
“I think it was actually good for us for practice,” Ekmark said. “We kind of saw before that it had been leaked but couldn’t find who we were playing. Coaches told us after we warmed up.
“It’s really exciting. I wanted to know who we played right away because now we actually have an opponent. We have someone to look forward to playing.”
“It is a little disappointing but it doesn’t really matter to me,” Ibis said. “I already experienced it three times so it doesn’t really matter.”
It had been 10 days since ASU last played, while simultaneously waiting for their fate to be decided. As the five-seed in the Portland region, they will travel to Coral Gables, FL and compete in a group with 12 seed UCF (their opponent), 13 seed FGCU and four seed (and host) Miami.
Other teams in their quarter of the bracket include one-seed Mississippi State and conference-rival two-seed Oregon.
It will be a unique experience for ASU, travelling to Florida and potentially facing two Florida schools as the only out-of-state seed participating in this portion of the bracket.
“Historically, we do better when we get shipped out,” Turner Thorne said. “We’ve done well both ways but I think sometimes when you’re close to home, you don’t get away from all the distractions. It will be easier for all their fans to get there...But we don’t care about that.”
UCF finished at 26-6 as a member of the American Athletic Conference. They finished second in their conference tournament, losing to perennial powerhouse UConn 66-45.
They are known for running a zone defense, which limited opponents to an average 55.6 points per game. On the opposite end, they average 61.7 points per game; a margin of about six points.
Their leading scorer is junior Kay Kay Wright with 18 points per game. She’s also the leader in steals, assists and turnovers.
Against ranked competition this year, they are 0-4 with one close loss to Syracuse and three large losses to UConn.
ASU practices at home for two more days, then departs for Florida on Thursday.
Friday will be their matchup with the Knights. The game tips off at 4 p.m. MST on ESPN 2. The game can also be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.