Los Angeles -- This may be the City of Angels, but it doesn't seem as though any guardian spirits were looking out for Arizona State here this season.
The Sun Devils went 0-3 in Pac-10 games in the city on the season and, coincidentally or otherwise, it was the worst three games they played all year. Away from Los Angeles they went 12-4 in league play.
With an NCAA Tournament bid likely on the line, the No. 2 Sun Devils looked sluggish and sloppy in a 70-61 Pac-10 Tournament loss to No. 7 Stanford at Staples Center in front of a sparse and apathetic crowd Thursday evening.
"I don't think it was anything more than we didn't play our best today," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "It was pretty obvious it was a big game, and we didn't play well tonight."
Though no Pac-10 team in the last decade has gone 12-6 or better in league play in the regular season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-10 conference RPI is very weak, at No. 8 nationally,
With ASU's RPI of 54, it appeared at the very least a win over the Cardinal in the opener would be necessary to give it a good shot at an at-large bid. Now, the Sun Devils will likely find themselves on the outside looking in when the field is announced Sunday.
"I have heard a lot of speculation, [but] Arizona State has been terrific," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "They have been the second-best team in our conference, and they have earned it. Hopefully, one loss like this doesn't set them back."
ASU led just once in the game, a 30-29 advantage on a Jamelle McMillan field goal on the first possession of the second half, but it was fleeting.
Stanford's Jeremy Green, who led all scorers with 18 points, hit a 3-pointer on the next possession to kick off a 21-5 run that buried the Sun Devils.
Less than five minutes after Green's 3-pointer, the Cardinal had opened an eight point advantage, at 40-32, and they led by at least seven points the rest of the game, with a lead that stretched to as much as 17 points at the 2:45 mark.
Landry Fields had 17 points for Stanford and Emmanuel Igbinosa, who rarely has played on Thursdays this season due to academic obligations, had an important 12 points off the bench.
The Sun Devils were led by Rihards Kuksiks with 15 points, Derek Glasser with 14 points and Eric Boateng with 13 points.
Despite getting 12 more field goal attempts up at the basket, and out-rebounding their opponent 36-29, the Sun Devils were outclassed in the game, due in large part to 17 turnovers and a dramatic disparity at the foul line -- 32 attempts for Stanford versus 18 for ASU.
"We just didn't take care of the ball," ASU junior guard Ty Abbott said. "We didn't execute the way we have been doing all year. When you don't take care of the ball and you don't execute, it kind of piles up."
"That led to multiple transition opportunities and really put it behind the eight ball," Sendek said.
Glasser said earlier in the week he and his teammates felt they needed a win over Stanford in order to have a realistic shot at making the Tournament. Now they're simply hoping that isn't the case.
"We'll have to wait and see," Glasser said. "We don't really know how this affects us until Sunday."
Sendek, who is no fan of the idea of conference tournaments already, probably is even more upset with the concept after his team won eight of its last 10 games and appeared to be playing its best basketball before Thursday's indisputable disaster.
"I don't know how anybody knows; we don't have any answers until Sunday," Sendek said. "More wins means better chances, but we are going to hope for the best. Hopefully, our Pac-10 regular season will have significant weight."