Arizona State makes NCAA Tournament for 2nd straight year

Mar 17, 2019, 3:37 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm
Arizona State's Remy Martin, left, Rob Edwards (2), Zylan Cheatham (45), Romello White, right, and ...

Arizona State's Remy Martin, left, Rob Edwards (2), Zylan Cheatham (45), Romello White, right, and Luguentz Dort (0) huddle during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 75-63. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

(AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

Bobby Hurley and the Arizona State Sun Devils are dancing for the second straight year.

After falling to Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon in the conference tourney semifinals Friday in Las Vegas, ASU still did enough to strengthen their case and earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

ASU was selected as the No. 11 seed in the West Region and will face fellow No. 11 seed St. John’s in a First Four game on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. The game will be televised on Tru TV. The winner of that game will face No. 6 Buffalo in the second round.

It is the first back-to-back appearance for the Sun Devils in the big dance since 1981.

Despite losing three senior guards from a 20-win team the season prior, hopes were high for the Sun Devils in what many thought was Hurley’s most talented team. 

A season plagued with inconsistency has had them up-and-down throughout.

Hurley’s squad had a strong start to the season that included two signature wins and nine victories in their first 11 games. They beat then-No. 15 Mississippi State in mid-November, and in one of the biggest wins in the program’s history, defeated then-No. 1 and undefeated Kansas in Tempe 80-76 on Dec. 22.

After that win, with the job done in nonconference play and a weak Pac-12 remaining on the schedule, things looked promising for Hurley’s team.

But they lost to Princeton and opened conference play with a second straight defeat to Utah. A run of five wins in their last six restored the confidence, but they would lose to USC and were beat by 21 points against Washington State.

A huge victory over Washington at home was much-needed. Once again, though, disappointment followed with a loss to Colorado that seemed to lock up their chances for an at-large bid being gone.

Hurley’s team, however, took care of business when they needed to, once again winning five of six to end the year.

Needing at least one win in the Pac-12 Tournament to have supreme confidence in an at-large bid, they beat UCLA 83-72. But an overtime loss to Oregon added some doubt that almost certainly would have been canceled out by a win.

The Sun Devils are led by redshirt senior Zylan Cheatham, one of the conference’s best overall players. The First Team All-Pac-12 nod led the conference in rebounding at 10.5 a night and is also a playmaker, with 11.7 points and 3.3 assists per game as well.

Beyond Cheatham, it’s been a question of how the guards are rolling.

Sophomore Remy Martin has battled injuries and finding his true form this season, still managing to be Second Team All-Conference merit despite those struggles. Luguentz Dort’s team-high 16.1 points per game earned him the conference’s Freshman of the Year award, and the NBA prospect has still been finding himself offensively while he thrives in transition and as a defender. When redshirt junior Rob Edwards is scoring, that’s when the Sun Devils are at their best. His 11.2 points per game and 35.6 percent shooting have been a disappointment.

Last season, the Sun Devils made the First Four round as a No. 11 seed and lost to Syracuse.

ASU has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2009 when they were a No. 6 seed and defeated Temple 66-57. They went on to fall to No. 3 seed Syracuse 78-67.

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