Herb Sendek and his ASU Sun Devils have struggled through a tough year.
We hadn't used that headline even once during this men's college basketball season.
But the improbable happened, and both the Arizona Wildcats and the ASU Sun Devils won their weekend games against the Oregon schools fairly easily to close out the regular season in fine fashion.
For the Devils, the decisive sweep gave them a smidgen of hope for a miracle four-game run in the upcoming Pac-10 basketball tourney in Los Angeles.
First things first, ASU will have to repeat its recent performance against the Oregon Ducks on Wednesday in a first-round game between of the conference's lower lights.
If the Devils win, the UCLA Bruins await the following evening at Staples Center, and we suspect that will spell sayonara for this difficult season.
As for the Wildcats, this season has been sweeter than most folks, including head coach Sean Miller, suspected, with 25 wins, a Top-25 ranking, and the outright Pac-10 regular season crown.
Arizona goes into the conference tourney as the number-one seed, and it would be nice to see them play the rubber match against UCLA on national TV on Saturday afternoon. But the Wildcats traditionally have stumbled in this tourney, and losing a game along the way probably won't matter a great deal as far as seeding in the upcoming Big Dance (NCAA tourney) goes.
Arizona won't play until Thursday afternoon, against the winner of Stanford and Oregon State. Both of those schools have played the Cats tough this season, with the Beavers actually pulling out a tight win in Corvallis in January (which seems like a year ago).
We strongly suspect that ASU's season will end on Wednesday or Thursday. The Devils have battled hard all season, and it is a testament to Coach Herb Sendek's abilities that the team played so well last weekend and finished on a cool high note.
Down in Tucson, nothing short of an appearance in the Sweet 16 in a few weeks will end this season on a truly feel-good note. The Cats are about to say goodbye to the league's best player, Derrick Williams, who almost certainly will head to the NBA, and they ought to ride him for at least a couple of wins in the Dance.
We have made the trek to LA for the previous four Pac-10 tourneys, especially loving the Thursday set-up, with its afternoon and evening sessions (two games at each).
But we currently find ourselves in the middle of a yarn that is grabbing our complete attention, so we will have to watch on the telly.
Sad, because hanging out in downtown LA for a few days, watching ball, spending hours at the public library and eating Japanese food are our idea of heaven.