(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
After a demoralizing loss to the Stanford Cardinal in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, Arizona State will look to rebound in their first NCAA Tournament game against Ohio.
ASU was rewarded a third seed after having one of the best seasons in program, going 27-5 and defeating Stanford twice in one year for the first time ever.
But the early exit from the Pac-12 Tournament was certainly a disappointment for the Sun Devils. Who went into the competition with high hopes and a good chance to win the whole thing.
Nonetheless a three seed is nothing to complain about, and ASU was selected as a host team for the first and second round. Meaning they will start the climb to the Final Four on their home floor at Wells Fargo Arena.
And as we look ahead to their first matchup this Saturday, Arizona State will be facing a team that has been invited to the big dance just once before.
Don’t think however that the Ohio Bobcats are a group that can be overlooked or easily crossed out on your bracket.
Who’s Hot, Who’s Not?
These Bobcats aren’t just heading into March madness with a few wins under their belt, they are charging into it. They’ve just caught fire at what appears to be exactly the right time.
They’ve won seven in a row, including their conference tournament. They’ve been crowned MAC Champions, and now they come to Tempe with that Napoleonic Complex that’s been breaking brackets for years.
They may have been seeded at a 14 slot, but Ohio probably thinks it deserves
better after nearly running the table with a 27-4 record. Their regular season schedule did feature just one team that cracked the AP Top 25 all year. But there is something to be said for being four wins away from perfection. No matter who you’re playing.
Arizona State was sent home packing from Seattle by a team that they swept in the regular season. While the Bobcats took their conference championship with authority, eviscerating Eastern Michigan 60-44.
It would be foolish to say that Ohio is the favorite here just because of their recent success. But it all adds up to say that they could be catching ASU at the perfect moment for a Cinderella upset.
Quinn Dornstauder measures two inches taller than any player on the Ohio roster. The Bobcats aren’t exactly a physically gifted team, but that hasn’t been able to hinder their efforts until now. They haven’t exactly faced the country’s best this season so the physicality of this Arizona State team could come as a bit of a shock.
But it’s not just the difference in height that the Bobcats will find unusual. It’s also the speed and overall athleticism that teams like Arizona State bring to the table.
Ohio probably hasn’t faced a guard like Promise Amukamara during their 2015 campaign. One of the most athletic players not only in the Pac-12, but in the country, Amukamara’s elite speed could be too much to handle for the MAC champions.
If the Sun Devils can come out and flex their muscles early, outpacing and outmuscling the Bobcats from the get go. They should be able to douse any hope of an upset from the tip off to the final buzzer.
With their MAC Championship trophy, Ohio also totes two fantastic scoring guards in Kiyanna Black and Quiera Lampkins.
These two backcourt beasts have combined to average about 28 points per game this year. And the team’s leading scorer, Black, enters Saturday’s game with the hot hand, after she dropped 25 points on Eastern Michigan in the Conference Championship.
But Arizona State definitely has the talent at the guard position to match Ohio. With Elisha Davis and Amukamara at the one and two, the Sun Devils bolster one of the top perimeter defenses in the country.
This will be a battle to watch throughout the contest, and if Lampkins and Black are able to put up their usual scoring outputs on Davis and Amukamara, they will increase their team’s chance of victory by a large margin.
Ohio’s team website reads, “Two-Time MAC Champions, Two-Time NCAA Participant.”
Yes, this is just the second time the Bobcats have reached the NCAA Tournament since the mid-80’s.
The 2015 Tournament will be Arizona State’s second in as many years, with many players on the roster partaking in the event last year.
Something can be said for experience, and the Sun Devils have a lot of it when comes to not only postseason games, but also big games in general.
If ASU is focused on this game and this game alone, they should be able to come out with a rather elementary first round win.
But if the temptation to look ahead creeps into the minds of these players as the build up to the Tournament increases, watch out.
Because the Bobcats didn’t come all this way just to go down without a fight.