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ASU hopes NCAA Tournament at-large bid after loss to Oregon

TEMPE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 31: Zylan Cheatham #45 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts during the second half of the college basketball game against the Arizona Wildcats at Wells Fargo Arena on January 31, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The Arizona State Sun Devils avoided another hit to their resume to start the Pac-12 Tournament with a win over UCLA and its 120 NET rating.

Another victory against a surging Oregon team (56 NET) would have helped. Instead, ASU fell in overtime, 79-75, on Friday in the conference tournament semifinals, putting the Sun Devils on their chairs and hoping for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth heading into Selection Sunday.

Luckily, it didn’t harm ASU’s NET rating, which remained at 63. It appears Arizona State remains firmly on the bubble.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Sun Devils as a No. 11 seed and appearing in the First Four. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has ASU in but needing to appear in a play-in game.

And on, 94 of 111 brackets considered include the Sun Devils. By average, they are a No. 10 seed.

For now, Arizona State should find solace in an 11-6 record against teams in Quads 1 and 2.

The only thing standing out as a red flag on ASU’s resume is two Quad 4 losses. Home defeats against Princeton and Washington State were respectively curious in December and February, and they remain so now.

Only two other teams that have NET ratings in the top 100 have more than one Quad 4 loss, and they took those losses while playing many more than ASU’s eight games that fall into the Quad 4 bucket. Hofstra (76) went 19-2 against poor competition, while Northeastern (78) finished 11-3. ASU went 6-2 against Quad 4 squads.

With other conference tournaments ongoing, there’s reason for Sun Devil fans to watch with the hope that automatic-qualifier bids are won by the teams expected to win them.

Assuming that most power conference tournaments will be won by teams that would earn at-large bids anyhow and allowing for variance to relatively even out the total bids among those conferences, let’s look at conferences expected to land two or fewer teams in the Big Dance.

It’s here where bids are being eaten up by surprise teams, harming bubble squads like ASU. That’s because we don’t yet know how heavily the selection committee will value NET ratings.

Also, will the committee view the Pac-12 as it has in the past and give it the benefit of the doubt, or will it see the conference as an equal to smaller conferences? Will it matter for the Sun Devils whether Oregon or Washington wins the Pac-12 title game? Since Oregon won, the committee would need to be comfortable giving a down Pac-12 three berths.

Keep in mind: Updates are as of the morning of March 17 and NET ratings will appear in parentheses to add context about teams’ resumes.

The conference we know

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


Winner: Oregon (56)

At-large lock: Washington (40)

Expected bids: 2 or 3

Results so far: Washington is an at-large lock at 26-7 on the year. How will Oregon’s win affect ASU?

Confirmed bid-stealers

West Coast Conference

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Winner: Saint Mary’s (32)

At-large lock: Gonzaga (2)

Tournament results: Saint Mary’s dropped the then-top team in NET to end the WCC Tournament, and now a team that looked like a potential at-large pick is in with a victory over a likely No. 1 seed in Gonzaga.

Atlantic 10

(Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Winner: Saint Louis

Potential at-large: VCU (33)

Expected bids: 1 or 2

Results so far: No. 6 seed Saint Louis knocked off No. 3 seed Dayton, No. 2 seed Davidson and No. 4 seed St. Bonaventure enroute to the A-10 Championship leaving the door open for the committee to choose two teams from the conference.

VCU has a 5-4 record against Quads 1 and 2 and the loss to Rhode Island only counted as a Quad 3 loss.

Seriously threatening to steal bids

Ohio Valley Conference

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Winner: Murray State (45)

Potential at-large: Belmont (47)

Results: Murray State upset Belmont behind 36 points from likely top-five pick Ja Morant in the OVC title game. Now, Belmont is a potential at-large bid winner with a strong resume.

The Bruins are 2-2 against Quad 1 competition, 3-1 against Quad 2, 3-2 against Quad 3 and 17-0 against Quad 4. That’s arguably right in line with Pac-12 leader Washington. While those are very different from ASU’s odd resume, it’ll be something to watch.

Atlantic Sun

(Taylor Irby/The News & Advance via AP)

Winner: Liberty (60)

Potential at-large: Lipscomb (50)

Results: Lipscomb fell to Liberty and is now on the outside looking in to the bubble. Lipscomb is 2-3 against Quad 1 teams and 17-0 against Quad 4 teams.

Southern Conference

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Winner: Wofford (13)

Potential at-large: Furman (42)

Results: With a Wofford win over UNC Greensboro in the championship game, it’s a wonder if Furman can get in the big dance with a strong NET but a poor 1-5 Quad 1 record and 16-1 Quad 4 record. That one win Quad 1 win, however, came against Villanova (26).

These conferences in all likelihood will finish as projected. But there are slim possibilities of turmoil.

Mountain West Conference

(Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

Winner: Utah State (30)

At-large lock: Nevada (23) 

Expected bids: 2

San Diego State dropped Nevada in the semifinal but could not upset Utah State in the championship game. This league was expected to get two bids coming into the tournament and although the Aztecs made a push, it is still expected to have just two bids.

Mid-American Conference

(AP Photo/David Dermer)

Favorite: Buffalo (16)

Challenger: Bowling Green (116)

Expected bids: 1

Results so far: Buffalo knocked off Bowling Green solidifying the MAC as a one-bid league.

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