With ASU set to face off against USC and UCLA this weekend at Wells Fargo Arena, the general consensus both inside the locker room and from the standpoint of the casual observer is that the Sun Devils have to win both games to even be considered for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should they not win the Pac-10 Tournament and earn an automatic berth.
ASU (20-9, 10-6 Pac-10) still has a shot at gaining a share of the Pac-10 regular season title should it win both games and Cal loses to Stanford, but the Sun Devils aren’t counting on it.
“Were not expecting Cal to lose at Stanford, so I think that we feel that we’re going to go in as second place in the Pac-10 tournament,” senior guard Derek Glasser said. “We’ve just got to take care of business this weekend. We still feel that we have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament, so we know how critical these last two games are.”
The Sun Devils currently have an Ratings Percentage Index ranking of 54 and a strength of schedule rating of 74, according to ESPN — numbers considered too low to make the NCAA Tournament field.
Neither Joe Lunardi of ESPN.com nor Andy Glockner of Sports Illustrated have ASU in their “others considered” or “left out” category, let alone in the tournament.
Additionally, ASU is just 1-5 against RPI top-50 opponents and 3-7 against RPI top-100 opponents, factors that will be considered by the tournament selection committee.
“I really haven’t studied it,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said about his team’s tournament chances. “A lot of it depends on what happens around the country and how the Pac-10 is perceived by the committee. It’s difficult to say for certain.”
Even so, if ASU were to sweep USC and UCLA this weekend, it would be hard to justify leaving out a team with a 22-9 overall record and a 12-6 conference record.
“I think if you win 12 games in the Pac-10, you’re a tournament team,” Glasser said. “I don’t know the last time that a team won 12 games [in the Pac-10] and didn’t make the tournament.
One factor that has hurt ASU in national perception is the Sun Devils’ struggles in nationally televised games this year.
ASU is 5-5 in nationally televised games this year, including an 18-point loss to Cal, a 23-point loss at Washington, a bad loss at UCLA and a blown lead against Baylor. The team’s best win on national TV was the team’s four-point win over UA on the road.
In comparison, last year, ASU was 15-3 in nationally televised games, including 13-1 in the regular season.
“We’ve had a few nationally televised games that we just haven’t played our best,” Glasser said. “The Cal game … I’m sure a lot of people watched in the second half and were like, ‘They’re not a tournament team’… I think that we’ve had our chances to show people, and we just haven’t done it. I don’t think we’ve performed as well, especially as well as last year, on nationally televised games.”
Milestones within reach
Three Sun Devils have a chance to reach career milestones this weekend.
Glasser needs only nine points to reach 1,000 in his career.
Junior forward Rihards Kuksiks is only four 3-pointers away from making 200 treys in his career, and junior guard Ty Abbott is one steal away from reaching 100 for his career.
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