The Arizona State Sun Devils (21-11, 10-8) received an invitation to the NCAA Tournament Sunday, their first bid to “The Big Dance” since 2009. Coach Herb Sendek’s team drew a ten-seed in the Midwest region as they match-up with the 7th-seeded Texas Longhorns (23-10, 11-7) in Milwaukee on Thursday at 6:40pm MST.
The Devils have struggled of late, losing five of their last seven contests and three straight, and have not won a game away from Wells Fargo Arena since January 29th. But Sendek does not consider his team’s recent struggles to be relevant to their postseason fortunes.
“Everybody has a sense of rebirth going into the tournament,” Sendek said Sunday. “I don’t think the games that were most recently played necessarily carry over. I’ve done it long enough to see so many stark examples of that.”
The Longhorns are lead by forward Jonathan Holmes, who averages 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and Cameron Ridley’s 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Coach Rick Barnes’ squad struggles from behind the arc, shooting 32.4 percent for the season, but excel at rebounding on both ends of the floor; the type of team ASU has been vulnerable against.
Like the Sun Devils, Texas finished among the best in their conference, despite being picked to finish near the bottom by the media during the pre-season. The similarities do not end there as Texas also struggled down the stretch, losing five of their final eight contests, but did post victories over North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Kansas. However, anyone playing at this level sees the tournament as a clean slate.
“We believe in ourselves,” senior center Jordan Bachynski said. “We’ve had a rough road lately, but that’s behind us.”