(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
Cammeron Neely (@CammeronNeely, email@example.com) : As I was watching CBS reveal what teams were placed where Sunday afternoon I initially thought three things.
1. This is just about the correct seed that the Sun Devils deserve. The U of A win gave them “street cred” and they won the correct games in order to cement their tournament spot. So I had no qualms with the committee’s placement.
2. This is a very winnable game for ASU; as long as the good Sun Devils team shows up that is. Because if the sub-par team arrives to Milwaukee this team is prone to lose to any squad in the country.
Yes, Texas is a virtuous rebounding team and one of the Sun Devils’ largest issues is grabbing the ball off the backboard and yes ASU has lost five of its last seven games, but this team is so erratic and flammable that in a setting where the odds are routinely defeated, not accounting for a hot Sun Devils team is irresponsible.
3. I thought to myself if ASU does beat Texas they likely will play Michigan and that will be the end to their season. However, then I remembered Jermaine Marshall’s effectiveness against U of M in the past and how he willed Penn State to a win over the Wolverines last season with 25 points; therefore, again I was intrigued with what the magic of the NCAA tournament may bring ASU.
Ultimately, factoring in the likelihood of the Sun Devils traveling to Milwaukee’s Bradley Center in an orange pumpkin I think the Sun Devils will pull out a gritty win Thursday night and then lose a game that is competitive for stretches to Michigan on Saturday.
Kristina Vicario (@KristinaV_18, firstname.lastname@example.org): For the first time in four years, the Sun Devils will be playing in the NCAA tournament. The Sun Devils received a justifiable seeding when taking their recent losses, as well as the strength of their region into account.
While ASU was able to beat No. 1 seed in the West region Arizona, they also have lost five out of their last seven games. The Sun Devils did finish fifth in the Pac-12 conference, but lost in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament to Stanford who was awarded No. 10 seed in the South region.
The Midwest region might be the easiest overall, however it is comprised of perennial powers like Duke and Michigan. It also includes the NCAA 2013 champion Louisville, and the feared Wichita State who received the No. 1 seed in the region. The Sun Devils will travel to Milwaukee to take on the No. 7 seed Texas Longhorns Thursday night.
Texas is known to struggle on the offensive end, however in order to take advantage of that the Sun Devils will need most of their starting five to get hot early. The Longhorns finished in a tie for third place in the Big 12 conference, playing a schedule in which 18 of the teams they played advanced to the NCAA tournament.
If the Sun Devils are able to advance past the Longhorns, they will have to face No. 2 seed Michigan in the third round. Even if the Sun Devils are having their strongest year since they made the tournament in 2009, it will be an extremely tall task to trample the Wolverines who lost to Louisville in the NCAA tournament last year when they were only a No. 4 seed.
No matter where the statistics point and what the past may be, the Sun Devils can be very unpredictable when they turn on the heat. Even so, it’s going to be a tough road.
Samantha Pell (@Sammyjade18, email@example.com): Receiving the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region, Arizona State has a tough road ahead but ASU should be grateful for a No. 10 seed. The selection committee could have very easily dropped this Sun Devils squad to a 11 or 12 seed, or in fact given them the challenge of potentially facing the No. 1 seed in their region in the second round. That’s only if ASU gets that far that is.
For the first round matchup, facing a Texas team that has made the tournament in 14 of the last 15 years, the Sun Devils will have their hands full. ASU has the athleticism and ability to pull out the win in Milwaukee, Wisc. on Thursday night, but only if the team comes together and plays with confidence. Shooters have to be on point and senior center Jordan Bachynski will need to be on his game in the paint. I see a chance for ASU to pull out the win against Texas, but even if it gets the win, their next game would be most likely be against No. 2 seeded Michigan. Michigan is one of the premier teams in the country and with only a day in between the first and second rounds, ASU would be on a time crunch to even prepare on how to defense an electric Michigan offense.
ASU drew a difficult region in the Midwest, but regardless, I don’t see them getting past the second round. However, ASU has accomplished its goal of making the Big Dance, so now its up to the players to see how far they can take the team.
Nick Krueger (@NickPKrueger, firstname.lastname@example.org): This is the chance for ASU to gain some respect on the national stage. The Sun Devils should be able to take down the Longhorns because tournament play is all about getting hot at the right time. In fact, if ASU would have won its last two or three games I probably would have picked against the Sun Devils but when the team echoed each other this week in saying they have “hit reset” the conviction in their voice is strong.
The selection committee was generous to ASU with a ten seed much less playing Michigan in the second round. The best team in the bottom half of the bracket that the Sun Devils reside in are the Duke Blue Devils. Although the Midwest region as a whole is difficult, the Sweet 16 is not out of the realm of possibility.
If ASU can finally figure out its rebounding woes, start off quickly unlike its past three games and speed up the Longhorns who may not be ready for the length of Jordan Bachynski, the Sun Devils should get it done in Milwaukee.