The Arizona State Sun Devils just did something they hadn't done in nearly 40 years: They advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
Their next challenge? Do something they haven't done in a decade: win an NCAA Tournament game.
ASU will take on fellow No. 11 seed St. John's in a First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. Arizona time. The game will be broadcast on Tru TV. If the Sun Devils win, it'll be their first NCAA Tournament victory since the James Harden-led Devils defeated Temple in the 2009 Tournament. The winner of Wednesday's game will face No. 6 seed Buffalo in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Friday.
ASU lost to Syracuse in a First Four game last season. Will Bobby Hurley get his first NCAA Tournament as ASU head coach this time around? Here are some predictions from the ABC15 team.
ASU lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Will things be different this time around?— ABC15 Sports (@abc15sports) March 18, 2019
Bobby Hurley: pic.twitter.com/q9YfCNF5P4
ABC15 real-time editor Ali Mehlhorn
Both teams have solid guards, an up-tempo style and had to hold their breaths on Selection Sunday to sneak into the Tournament. If the Devils want to rebound after Friday's loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals, they have to start by taking better care of the ball after 14 turnovers in that game.
Remy Martin and Luguentz Dort will need to outwork St. John's star guard Shamorie Ponds on both sides of the floor to keep him in check. But the Pac-12's top rebounder Zylan Cheatham and teammate Romello White may be biggest the difference makers. Expect them to exploit their size advantage and establish themselves early against St. John's 12th-worst offensive rebounding percentage in the nation. ASU 74, St. Johns 68
ABC15 real-time editor Seth Pines
One year later and the Sun Devils find themselves in the exact same position. The difference this time around? They’ll get the win to move on in the Big Dance. Simply put, the Devils have the grit and experience this time to get themselves over the hump. St. John’s won’t be easy to beat, as they feature some dynamic players, including guard Shamorie Ponds and defensive stopper Justin Simon, who played a season at UA before transferring to Queens.
Ultimately, I expect the duo of Remy Martin and Zylan Cheatham to carry ASU to victory. When the Devils need a big bucket or timely rebound, those two will be ready to answer the call as they have done throughout the course of the regular season. ASU 58, St. John’s 53
ABC15 sportswriter Shane Dale
The Devils are the most athletically gifted team in the Pac-12, and in the words of Zylan Cheatham: "I think when we’re knocking on all cylinders... we can really make some noise and compete with anybody." The Devils have proven, however, that they can be slowed by great defensive teams.
Fortunately for ASU, St. John's does not fit that category, as it's one of the worst defensive squads in this year's Tournament. What's more, the Red Storm are limping into the postseason the same way ASU did last year (five losses in their last seven games), whereas the Devils have won six of their last eight, with the two losses coming against a surging Oregon team. Look for Cheatham, a senior who has been playing with a heavy heart for nearly three months, to do what he needs to do to push the Devils to a matchup with ASU coach Bobby Hurley's former team, No. 6 seed Buffalo, on Friday. ASU 72, St. John's 61