ASU women's basketball back in NCAA Tournament, will face Vanderbilt
The ASU women's basketball team's season has culminated in an invitation to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Despite losing five of their last seven games, the Sun Devils (22-9, 11-7 Pac-12) locked up the No. 9 seed in the Notre Dame bracket and will play No. 8-seed Vanderbilt in the first round on Saturday in Toledo, Ohio.
The last time ASU was in the tournament, senior guard Adrianne Thomas and redshirt senior guard Deja Mann were the only two players on the current roster to play, making this a brand new experience for most of the roster.
"It's awesome in terms of bringing our tradition back," coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We're here, and we get a taste of it."
The Commodores (18-12, 7-9 SEC) lost seven of their final eight games, including a loss to Georgia in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Turner Thorne had nothing but praise upon hearing with whom her team would be matched up.
"Melanie (Balcomb) is a great coach," Turner Thorne said. "No matter what, her team is always there every year, so that's going to be a tough game, but it's amazing to earn the opportunity to play them."
It took a while before the Sun Devils were revealed on the bracket, and redshirt senior center Joy Burke had a bit of a premonition as to when her team would be revealed.
"It's funny, because right at the beginning of (the selection show), I had no predictions in who we're going to play or what seed we were going to get, but I thought, 'Man, I bet we'll be in the last bracket,' and then we were," Burke said. "As they started calling out teams I thought, 'OK, c'mon, when's our turn?' So finally seeing ASU up there, it was such a good feeling knowing that we really made it, we got our ticket to the Big Dance. I was very excited about it."
Redshirt sophomore guard Katie Hempen has not studied her opponent yet, but she believes there is a common denominator between all tournament teams.
"I don't watch much of them, because they're on the other side of the country, but you know what the good teams have," Hempen said. "You know they can rebound and you know they can shoot the ball, so if we rebound and shoot the ball a little bit better, then we'll be ahead of the game."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Tonis_The_Tiger