ASU hoops’ run to tourney creates exciting season

For college basketball fans, this is the best time of year.

For the first time in a long time, it is also good time of the year for ASU men’s basketball fans.

ASU is in a solid position to make a run into the NCAA Tournament.

Last year, many people were calling for coach Herb Sendek’s head. Thankfully, ASU Athletic Director Steve Patterson made the right call and kept him on staff.

Sendek has done a phenomenal job with this team. Most analysts picked the Sun Devils to finish 11th in the Pac-12 this season. They currently sit No. 4 in the conference standings.

Following a season when ASU won a measly 10 games, Sun Devil fans have a lot to cheer for.

Freshman sensation Jahii Carson is taking this team to heights that no one believed it could reach. It has already won 19 games this season.

Carson is an electrifying player. It’s rare that local talent ends up here in Tempe since ASU loses most of its top recruits to UA.

Carson is different though. He decided to go to ASU and stay local. That says something about the freshman point guard. ASU matters to him, which is making this a special season.

Junior guard Evan Gordon’s buzzer beater against Colorado on Saturday was huge. It put ASU back in a position to make it to the NCAA Tournament next month.

The win followed a horrendous loss at Utah on Feb. 13. It was ASU’s worst loss of the season. It was the loss that I thought would end this team’s season.

I was wrong.

According to Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s senior bracketologist, ASU is currently one of the last four teams that would make it into the tournament. Just last week, it would’ve been one of the last four out.

This is life on the bubble. Every single game means so much and there is little to no room for error. At this point in the season, every game is a must-win.

The college basketball season is a grind, especially for players like Carson. His academic ineligibility from a season ago may be a blessing in disguise. It might give him just enough juice to get this team over the hump.

The Sun Devils have five games remaining leading into the Pac-12 tournament. I think ASU needs to win four to assure themselves a bid.

Every single game is critical to the Sun Devils. I feared that they were worn out following their loss to Utah. Carson looked tired and I thought he would fade down the stretch. That can’t happen.

If the Sun Devils play their style of basketball, they can obtain a bid to the NCAA Tournament. ASU should beat Washington State, Washington, UCLA and USC.

The Sun Devils are equally as good, if not better than all of these teams.

For this to happen, the Sun Devils are going to need contributions from players other than Jahii Carson. Gordon and senior wing Carrick Felix will need to continue their solid play.

I wasn’t sold on this team for a long time, but now I am.

Fans should be excited. This could be ASU’s first tournament bid since 2009. Students should take note and fill the Wells Fargo Arena to maximum capacity.

This is the perfect season in college basketball for an underdog team to make a run. ASU might end up with a No. 13 seed, but that’s OK. They would still get matched up against a beatable opponent.

A potential opponent for the Sun Devils could be Kansas State or Louisville. Neither of these teams would be a complete favorite over ASU.

I’ve been waiting for this moment since I enrolled at ASU. College basketball is special once March rolls around. I look forward to sitting on the edge of my seat throughout the remainder of the season.

All the Sun Devils can do now is win. If they win the Pac-12 Tournament. then they’re guaranteed an automatic bid.

Taking the committee out of the decision is the best thing they can do. There’s nothing worse than being left out of the dance on Selection Sunday.

The one thing this team is missing is a signature win. They still have an opportunity to get it, too.

The Sun Devils travel to Tucson on March 9 in a rematch with their bitter rivals, the UA Wildcats. A win would be the perfect way to cap their magical regular season.

Reach the columnist at jbisaccia@asu.edu