The postseason fate of ASU women’s basketball was revealed Wednesday evening, as the Sun Devils heard their name called on ESPN’s NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show during a watch party at the Carson Center in Tempe.
ASU, which earned a No. 8 seed in the Stockton regional, will battle No. 9 seed Michigan State Friday in Columbia, South Carolina. Should the Sun Devils emerge victorious from their first-round game, they will take on the winner of No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 16 seed UNC Asheville.
"It's always exciting," said head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who enters the tournament one win shy of 400 wins at the helm in Tempe. "Obviously I'm proud of our team for getting a bid to the big dance. Bottom line is it's just great to be still playing."
Other intriguing teams in ASU’s quadrant of the bracket include No. 2 Oregon State, No. 3 Florida State and No. 4 Miami.
This marks the fourth straight season that the Sun Devils have reached the tournament, making it a perfect 4-for-4 for seniors Kelsey Moos, Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder.
"Hopefully this is our best one yet," Moos said. "We have high goals, we just want to really come together as a team right now and peak at the right time. We haven't really peaked necessarily when we wanted to."
In those four trips, ASU made it past the first weekend once in 2015, before falling to Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen.
At one point this season, the Sun Devils were touted as a top-four seed by the NCAA selection committee in a preliminary reveal of its top 16 teams.
But some struggles in conference play saw ASU quickly fall out of that category, as a combination of injuries and fatigue contributed to a five-game losing streak in the early part of February.
However, the Sun Devils resume that features key non-conference wins over the likes of Florida and Kentucky – as well as a .500 record in one of the country’s deepest leagues – secured them a tournament bid.
"The last time we had our whole team available was November," Turner Thorne said. "We lost Kiara Russell in December, we lost Kelsey and Jamie Ruden at the end of December going into January ... I think, given the setbacks, given that half of our team is new this year, I'm really proud of them."
Now, after an up-and-down season, the fun begins for a team that has been looking to make a run in March since the beginning of their 2016-17 campaign, after being upset at home by Tennessee as a No. 2 seed in last year’s second round.
"We have really good energy right now," Brunner said. "Everyone is excited for this, and we're just looking forward to our first game."
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