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ASU head coach: NCAA Tournament bid gives team new mindset

LISTEN: Herb Sendek, Head Coach ASU Basketball

ASU head coach Herb Sendek waited patiently on Sunday, waiting to see if his team would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.

With a signature win against rival and then No. 2 Arizona last month, the Sun Devils seemed to be coasting to an at-large bid. However, after losing five of their next seven games, ASU found their stock dropping and as a possible bubble team at the worst possible time.

“I was very confident based on all the feedback that so many different people provided, but obviously until you see your name appear on CBS, there is anticipation and there is some uneasiness,” Sendek told Doug and Wolf of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “When it finally appears, all those emotions are replaced with great joy.”

It was announced Sunday that No. 10 ASU would play No. 7 Texas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. The bid inspired a “new season” mentality for the Sun Devils, and hopefully some urgency.

“The reset button occurred when they saw their name on television yesterday and there wasn’t anybody in that room who didn’t feel good about themselves,” Sendek said.

ASU and Texas have both struggled in their recent games,
having being knocked out of their conference tournaments earlier than they would have liked, but Sendek says that is irrelevant now.

“I’ve seen so many teams end their conference tournament in a less than stellar performance, and then go on and do great things in the tournament,” Sendek said. “The way it is now, it’s next game. I don’t think the previous weekend or the last clump of games necessarily mean anything, and I would say the same thing if we won the tournament.”

The sixth-year Sun Devil coach has led the school to one other NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009, winning a first round game as a No. 6 seed before losing to No. 3 Syracuse.

In order to advance to the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament, Sendek will have to outwit Texas head coach Rick Barnes — a former colleague of his at Providence in 1988-89.

Sendek served a year as an assistant coach to Barnes, as the Friars finished 18-11 and lost their first-round game as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year.

“We got a very difficult first-round game in Texas,” Sendek said. “I have nothing but the greatest respect for Coach Barnes having worked with him, and when you look at his long line of success, it’s just mind-boggling.”