ASU and Arizona Dream Big As Pac-12 Basketball Tourney Starts Today In LA

For Arizona State, it's a chance at redemption after a lost season with just ten wins (but one of those was last Sunday's stunner over Arizona).

For the Wildcats, it's desperation time, as they have to win at least two games and probably three at the Pac-12 basketball tournament to return for the umpteenth time to NCAA March Madness.

The Sun Devils play the Stanford Cardinal tonight at 7 in a first-round Pac-12 Conference tournament game at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

It's loser-go-home time, and the only way that ASU gets into the NCAA tournament this season is by winning four games in four days.

That's about as likely as Sarah Palin showing up at an ACLU convention, or Barack Obama attending a fund-raiser for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But Coach Herb Sendek's Devils' did finish the regular season on a "roll" of sorts, winning their final two games, including that shocker over rival Arizona.

Stanford is 20-10 on the season, exactly the opposite record of their opponents from Tempe, but they are not all that formidable--actually, the Pac-12 (as all college b-ball fans know) is not in peak form this season.

The Cardinal has a nice freshman guard named Chasson Randle, and forward Josh Owens was a Second-Team All-League selection, but the squad isn't going to scare anyone, including ASU.

But Stanford did rout the Devils 68-44 in a February 2 game up in Palo Alto, and the Cardinal upset archrival Cal last weekend, so they go into tonight's game (televised on Channel 34 and on 860 AM radio-wise) as solid favorites.

Arizona has today off after earning a first-round bye, and will play the winner of UCLA-USC tomorrow. That very likely will be the Bruins, who ended their regular season in fine form and are very evenly matched with the smaller Wildcats.

Most prognosticators are saying that the Cats probably need to win the tournament in order to secure the automatic berth into the NCAA's, which start next week. Anything short of that is likely to mean a trip to the second-fiddle National Invitational Tournament (NIT), a fate sealed in large measure by the devastating loss to ASU.

We'll be watching tonight's Sun Devils' game, and don't expect either team to smell 80 points (ASU scored 87 against Arizona). Look for a game maybe in the low 60s, with Stanford moving on and ASU coming home.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin