By the numbers: ASU revives odds of making NCAA Tournament
One game does not make a season, that’s true. But if the Arizona State Sun Devils are believers in momentum, a 66-65 win over then-No. 22 Arizona on Saturday carries more weight than most games.
It certainly brought ASU’s chance to make the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row back to life. Before this week, those odds were dwindling by the day.
The win over rival Arizona was the team’s best resume win of the season, though the Sun Devils will need more big victories with 12 regular season Pac-12 games left to pull themselves out of a hole.
Using Arizona State’s NCAA Team Sheet among other predictive services, here is a look the Sun Devils’ chances of making the NCAA Tournament, by the numbers.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. Arizona State only has a 39.5% chance of making the NCAA Tournament as of Tuesday, according to TeamRankings.com.
ASU’s victory against Arizona, its first Quadrant 1 win, led to the fourth-biggest boost of tournament odds for any NCAA team from last week to this week. Arizona State’s chances rose 20.3%, per TeamRankings.com simulations.
Let’s go to an analytic that matters a lot. Bobby Hurley’s club currently carries a NET rating that’s 56th-best in the nation. Surprisingly, that was only a bump up one spot in the rankings after the win over rival Arizona.
The Pac-12 is amid a resurgence in terms of reputation, and the analytic models should help ASU build a resume for the rest of the season because of that. The Sun Devils have the 19th-strongest schedule in the country. And most of that is thanks to the Pac-12 opponents they’ve played so far. With 12 conference games left, there’s room to make moves.
Looking ahead, visits to Washington (Saturday) and Stanford (Feb. 13), a home game against Oregon (Feb. 20) and visit to USC (Feb. 29) would count as Quadrant 1 victories as of Tuesday.
But the problem lies in the past …
Arizona State’s Division I non-conference schedule is ranked 82nd in the nation. While comparing resumes with rival Arizona (13-6), that is where the Wildcats’ seemingly similar resume departs from the Sun Devils’ own. UA has the 14th-strongest non-conference strength of schedule, in part thanks to losses against Baylor and Gonzaga, teams respectively No. 1 and 3 in the NET ratings.
ASU’s best opponents were Creighton (No. 24) and Saint Mary’s (No. 34). Both were losses, and the latter blew the Sun Devils out by 40 points.
The KenPom rating doesn’t do Arizona State favors, either.
The Sun Devils’ points per 100 possessions adjusted for opponents (103.4) is poor, ranking 171st in the nation. And it doesn’t make up for a reasonably good 31st-rated defense giving up an adjust 93.4 points per 100 possessions. That makes for a +9.99 rating in KenPom rating, which is 78th-best in the country.