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Mandel: ASU’s quality wins could push them into NCAA Tournament

(AP Photo/Matt York)

There’s no denying it: Arizona State University has seen its NCAA Tournament chances get thinner as the season has gone on.

After starting off 12-0 in nonconference play and upsetting then-No. 2 Kansas and then-No. 15 Xavier, ASU went on to go 8-10 in Pac-12 play and finish the season 20-11 with a loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Sun Devils lost five of their final six games and were unranked to end the year after being as high as No. 3 in the AP Poll at one point.

Stewart Mandel, the editor-in-chief of The Athletic’s The All-American college football publication, joined 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Friday to talk ASU as the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Sunday approaches.

“They’re barely in. They’re hanging there,” Mandel said of having ASU in the tournament in his Bracket Watch. “It’s down to like two or three teams on either side of the bracket that I feel like could go either way. It would not surprise me if they’re in, it would not surprise me if they’re out.”

The key, Mandel said, for ASU getting into the tournament is the fact that they had the two stunning nonconference upsets away from their own court, as well as a weekend sweep of USC and UCLA.

“It’s really about, to me, by far the most important criteria to the committee is those quality wins. We see it every year. Teams that think they did pretty well but get left out just don’t have enough of those high-end wins. It’s hard to get more high-end than Xavier and Kansas, two teams that as of today would be No. 1 seeds in the tournament. And then two pretty good other wins after that in UCLA and USC.”

As of Friday, Mandel’s bracket had ASU in a play-in game against St. Bonaventure.

Still, it’s not a sure thing.

“All the other things are troubling,” Mandel said. “The low RPI rating is certainly troubling. Just generally how they played down the stretch is troubling. But if I’m looking at the overall resume, I think those couple big wins might be enough to get them in.”

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