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On the bubble: What they’re saying about ASU’s NCAA Tournament odds

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Stanford, Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona State is testing the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s process.

Opening the Pac-12 Tournament against Colorado, the Sun Devils fell in their first double-digit loss of the season. They enter Selection Sunday having lost five of their last six, but coach Bobby Hurley believes their resume — boosted by nonconference wins over Kansas and Xavier — will carry them into the tournament.

“I felt like we were in the tournament coming into this game regardless of the outcome,” Hurley said Wednesday after ASU fell, 97-85. “We were the last undefeated team in college basketball. We went and played high-level opponents on the road and on neutrals.”

But the Wednesday loss to the Buffaloes gave Arizona State a 20-11 record and the 65th-best RPI. True, less-archaic metrics such as KenPom and ESPN’s BPI rates ASU as a top-50 team, and the NCAA selection committee’s quadrant system doesn’t weigh the concerning recent results any more than those at the beginning of the year.

Still, not all college basketball analysts are as confident in Arizona State’s resume as Hurley. After all, a team finishing ninth in the Pac-12 before being selected as an at-large team to the NCAA Tournament would be unprecedented, especially coming out of conference rated as the sixth-best in the nation, per ESPN’s John Gasaway.

Here’s what several basketball analysts are saying about ASU’s NCAA Tournament chances heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

ESPN’s John Gasaway – Should be in

For weeks now, Bubble Watch has been wondering if the Sun Devils are as safe as everyone seems to think they are. Well, that’s question is more timely than ever now that Arizona State lost to Colorado 97-85 in the Pac-12 tournament first round.

ASU went 8-10 during the conference season and has now lost five of its last six games. Yes, it does have the road win at Kansas and the neutral-floor victory over Xavier. Could a team with wins like that really miss the field entirely? Yes, it could happen, and, even if it doesn’t, it’s going to be really close.

Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg – Work left to do

It’s not easy to miss the NCAA tournament despite a pair of wins over potential No. 1 seeds, but by golly Arizona State is determined to try.

They finished 8-10 in what was easily the weakest power conference and then crashed out of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday with an opening-round loss to Colorado. The Sun Devils may yet sneak into the NCAA tournament by virtue of a respectable 7-9 record in quadrant 1 and 2 games, but what reason is there to believe they could win a game even if they did? They’ve dropped five of six, all but one of which came at the hands of teams unlikely to reach the NCAA tournament.

The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel – Last team in that’s not in a play-in game

 The Sun Devils’ loss to Colorado in their Pac-12 tourney opener marked their fifth loss in the last six games and put them ever-closer to falling out of my field. (They are my last team not in Dayton). They’ve fallen all the way to the mid-60s in the RPI.

ASU must hope its big early wins over Xavier and Kansas and a respectable 8-9 record against Q1/Q2 foes are enough to fend off teams still playing.

CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm – Maybe

If Arizona State had Trae Young instead of Tra Holder, we would be hearing a lot more about its collapse in conference play, which is similar to what Oklahoma is going through. The Sun Devils may make the field, even if it loses to Colorado, but that loss would be at least their seventh to a team that is unlikely to make the tournament.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi – Last four in

“I wouldn’t want to be a fan of either (Oklahoma or ASU) at the moment because it’s going to be a long wait until Sunday,” Lunardi said on ESPN of the two stumbling teams. “I think it’s a pretty stark distinction, to tell you the truth. The difference is, Oklahoma’s losses are all to NCAA Tournament teams. Arizona State is now 8-11 in a Pac-12 that is frankly not very good and is closer to the seventh league in the country than it is to the top-5.

“I don’t have any trouble distinguishing those two teams, and I’m keeping Arizona State on the board for the moment. But at this point, I’d be really worried that they’re going to be passed at some point between now and Sunday.”

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