Opinion: ASU didn't deserve to make the NCAA Tournament

Given that other teams performed much better, ASU got lucky

Last week’s 60-56 loss in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament to the Syracuse Orange ended what was a thrilling up and down season for ASU basketball.

After getting off to a flaming hot start, the Sun Devils cooled off considerably by losing 11 of their next 19 games in conference play, which included a first round exit in the Pac-12 tournament.

"I would say they needed to win just that Colorado game in Vegas, and then I would have said that they deserved to get in," State Press men's basketball reporter Anthony Totri said.

Even when considering how much the Sun Devils accomplished this season given their conference play, ASU should be thankful that they were even selected to make the field of 68 in the first place.

A team with such poor in-conference play doesn't deserve to make the tournament. While ASU looked unbeatable in non-conference play, the team's Pac-12 play, with losses to teams like Oregon State and Oregon, should have taken them out of contention for the First Four. 

"I am a strong believer in looking at the season as a whole," Totri said. "To perform the way (ASU basketball) performed in conference play was absolutely atrocious."

Teams around the country such as the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Saint Mary’s Gaels certainly had a stronger bid over the Sun Devils for a spot in the tournament this March.

Oklahoma State for one had the same 8-10 conference regular season record as ASU in a tougher Big 12 conference, as well as a plethora of big wins including two over the University of Kansas, a number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. 

The Cowboys have a similar resume of impressive wins as the Sun Devils, even if ASU may have better non-conference wins. 

When it comes to performance within the conference, the Cowboys outplayed ASU by getting more quality wins within the conference and, unlike the Sun Devils, won a game in their conference tournament.

Saint Mary’s on the other hand had a very different resume than either ASU or Oklahoma State in that the Gaels play in a weaker West Coast Conference and only had five total losses on the season.

With that said, Saint Mary’s failed to reach their conference championship game which in part put them on the bubble, but in comparison to ASU the Gaels certainly deserved to make the NCAA Tournament with wins over Gonzaga and New Mexico State.

Out of all of the bubble teams that failed to punch their ticket into March Madness, Saint Mary’s and Oklahoma State were two teams that certainly deserved to make the big dance over the Sun Devils.

There were a variety of teams that were very close to the Sun Devils in terms of resume as well.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Wichita State Shockers, Florida State Seminoles, Syracuse, Virginia Tech Hokies and North Carolina Tar Heels, who all made the tournament en-route to a 20-14 record before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

The Fighting Irish had various injuries throughout the season to star players such as Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, but even with the injuries Notre Dame still put up a resume that made them a contender for a bid in March Madness.

The University of Southern California Trojans is a second team that many argued had a strong case to make the NCAA Tournament. The Trojans finished in second place in the Pac-12 and got to the Pac-12 tournament championship game.

The problem for the Pac-12 runner ups is that the Trojans only had one win against a team that qualified for March Madness and failed to beat UA, UCLA and ASU even once. The lack of quality wins really hurt USC’s resume.

Considering the amount of teams with similar or better resumes than the Sun Devils, ASU should be thankful that they were even given the opportunity to participate in March Madness.

Reach the columnist at kbriley@asu.edu and on twitter @KokiRiley.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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