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Early Pac-12 exit dampens ASU’s NCAA Tournament hopes

Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley questions a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. Colorado defeated Arizona State 97-85. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

LAS VEGAS — How did we get here?

At Christmas, the Arizona State Sun Devils were the toast of the college basketball world. The final unbeaten team in the nation, a win over the Arizona Wildcats on Dec. 30 likely would have propelled them to No. 1 in the country in the following week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Since then, a dream season has turned into something of a nightmare.

After losing to Colorado 97-85 in the first round of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament Wednesday, the Sun Devils must wait until Selection Sunday to see if they’ll be dancing or just watching from the side.

Ever confident, coach Bobby Hurley doesn’t think there’s much of an issue.

“I felt like we were in the tournament coming into this game regardless of the outcome,” Hurley said. “Just, again, we were the last undefeated team in college basketball. We went and played high-level opponents on the road and on neutrals. We beat two regular-season conference champions and most likely No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. And we did it pretty handily in those games.”

Although Hurley read the high points, a lot of negatives exist, too, such as a loss at Oregon State (RPI 144) and losing five of their final six games of the season, including Wednesday.

In February, Bruce Rasmussen, the chair of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee, said, “We look at every game as important as every other game. So it doesn’t make any difference with what time of the year you played those games.”

Freshman guard Remy Martin is just as confident as his coach, though he did admit he may be a tad biased toward the Sun Devils.

“We’ve beaten a lot of great teams and we just went through a little bit of a slump,” Martin said. “People know what we have and people know we are still a threat, but of course I’m always going to think my team is an NCAA (Tournament) team and one of the best teams out there.”

Bracketologists, however, are not as convinced.

The Sun Devils have been falling down brackets all conference season, appearing as an 11 seed on the bracket of ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Jason Lisk of The Big Lead, who projected all 68 teams correctly last season, had the Sun Devils out of the tournament after the game.

History, too, is against ASU.

No Pac-12 team has made the tournament when winning eight or fewer conference games and no Pac-12 team with an RPI as an at-large below 60 has made the Big Dance since the USC Trojans did so in 2010-11.

They won 11 conference games.

Cases for the Sun Devils being included will be just as convincing as those against, but the only decision now is in the hands of the selection committee.

Senior guard Shannon Evans II didn’t want to project what happens next. He just wants to keep playing.

“I don’t really know how that really works,” Evans said. “But I hope so. I hope we did enough.”

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