(Photo Credit: Mauricio Casillas/WCSN)
For the first time since 2011, the Arizona State Sun Devils are in the Dance. On the other hand, their adversary, Vanderbilt, will be making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The Commodores started off their season 13-2, reaching as high as No. 16 in the national polls, but faltered when an injury to star freshman guard Rebekah Dahlman forced her to miss the remainder of the season.
Vanderbilt defeated four ranked teams throughout the season, including a victory over the Tennessee Lady Vols, but they lost nine of their last 11 games. However, they feature the most prolific three-point shooter in school history, senior guard Christina Foggie.
Foggie was recently named to the All-SEC team by the Associated Press, and led the conference in scoring with 19.1 points per game. She has scored in double-figures in all but two games all season.
“It’s like playing an upper-half team in the Pac-12,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “That’s what they look like.”
Much like the Commodores, ASU rode a strong start to No. 11 in the national rankings before losing six of their final eight games. The only players to have any NCAA Tournament experience are redshirt seniors Deja Mann and Joy Burke, and senior guard Adrianne Thomas, though none of the three got much court time in their 2011 loss to the Dayton Flyers.
“It’s a young team. It’ll be interesting to see,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s not like we’ve got a veteran group where they’re used to being in the NCAA Tournament.”
“We’re back to being really underdogs now,” Mann said. “I’m sure a lot of people expect us to get bounced in the first round.”
As one would expect in the 8-9 matchup, the two teams mirror each other in a multitude of ways. They score about the same amount of points per game (71.9 for Vanderbilt, 69.9 for ASU), and both teams also keep their opponents scoring to the mid-60s. Against the top-25, the Commodores are 4-5, while ASU is 3-3.
“As simple as it sounds, if we play well, I think we’ll win,” Turner Thorne said. “If we don’t, we won’t. We definitely won’t win.”
The first round game will tip-off at 11 a.m. (EST) in Toledo, Ohio, and the winner will likely play Notre Dame, the No. 1 seed in the region who has yet to drop a game this season.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org