Arizona State's basketball team (the guy's version) has been ranked in the lower realms of all Division I programs this season, and yesterday afternoon's game in Tempe against the Arizona Wildcats had the makings of a butt-whipping--for the Cats.
Most of those geeks who study the "Bubble" as if it were a mutating spore had been saying that Arizona obviously had to take care of business against the Sun Devils, and probably then win a game or two at the upcoming Pac-12 tournament in Los Angeles. (You know the Bubble--it's where a bunch of basketball teams sit hoping that they will be invited into NCAA March Madness, which starts in a little more than a week).
ASU, to be blunt, has been lousy much of the year, though Coach Herb Sendek's teams always play their hearts out. Wanting to win and being able to win are two different things at any level.
So, what happened at the Wells Fargo Arena on a beautiful Sunday afternoon?
ASU, Arizona 80, in a surprisingly well-played and exciting game in doubt until the last few seconds.
Almost as stunning as the Sun Devils' win were number of points they put up, their great foul shooting (22 for 24), lack of turnovers (just ten) and, well, they played absolutely as well they could possibly play and that spelled an improbable W.
Jonathan Gilling, a freshman for ASU, hit five three-pointers, but none bigger than the contested one with about a minute to go--the probable dagger in Arizona's postseason hopes, as it turned out.
Win or lose, the Wildcats' head coach, Sean Miller, is as straightforward as it gets, and when he told reporters after the game that his team isn't good enough to be an NCAA tournament-caliber team, it hit home.
To pull out a legit sports cliche, Arizona didn't lose this game, ASU won it.
Next, the beleaguered Pac-12 heads to Los Angeles and Staples Center for the conference tournament. We have attended this event several times, and love it, but just can't justify going this year because the quality of play just isn't that good this `go-round.
ASU will try to keep its season alive on Wednesday night with a game against the so-so Stanford Cardinal. Arizona earned a bye by virtue of its 4th-place finish in the regular season, but is likely to have to play UCLA on Thursday afternoon if the Bruins get by terrible USC.
The Cats don't have the size to match up well with UCLA, and the teams split during the regular season--Arizona snuck away with a tight win just a few weeks ago.
Not looking good for the NCAA's this year, after last season's brush with the Final Four. But, from what the geeks have been telling us, Arizona's incoming recruiting class is among the nation's very best, so look out!
As for the Devils, congrats....