Sun Devils résumé remains an enigma entering road-heavy final stretch
Well, that weekend was kind of a wash.
Entering this past weekend, I, like most bracket prognosticators, had Arizona State somewhere on the right side of the bubble — not very comfortably in the field at all, but there. For me, the Sun Devils were floating just above the “Last Four In” category, still receiving a No. 11 seed but avoiding Dayton.
Lose to Washington State by 21. Beat Washington by 12.
This team can never do anything that makes sense. And, as I wrote about after Saturday’s win over the Huskies, that can be a bad thing, but it can also be a good thing.
But in the big picture, everything’s right back where it was a week ago. ASU — thanks to another pretty poor weekend from its fellow bubble teams — is still on the right side of the bubble, in my eyes.
And I’m not the only one, by the way, as surprised as you may be by that fact. According to the Bracket Matrix, ASU is the consensus fifth-to-last team in the field, ranking No. 43 in the overall S-Curve and currently being included in 74 of 106 bracket projections.
We’ll get into why that’s still the case — and how it can continue to be the case — but first, the updated team sheet (based on games played through Feb. 12):
ARIZONA STATE (16-7, 7-4 Pac-12)
NET: No. 72
KenPom: No. 63
Sagarin: No. 50
BPI: No. 62
KPI: No. 38
Strength of Record: No. 60
Strength of Schedule: No. 69
Quadrant 1 (Home vs. NET Nos. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Away vs. 1-75)
WINS: No. 18 Kansas (H-Dec. 18) — No. 27 Mississippi State (N-Nov. 19) — No. 38 Utah State (N-Nov. 21)
LOSSES: No. 12 Nevada (N-Dec. 7)
REMAINING GAMES (1): No. 64 Oregon (A-Dec. 28)
--Wait, where’s Washington? The Huskies currently rank No. 31 in the NET, so that win is in Q2 right now. Barely. Trust me, assuming Washington continues to be the team it was before losing to ASU, that win will be back in Q1 long before Selection Sunday.
Quadrant 2 (Home vs. NET Nos. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Away vs. 76-135)
WINS: No. 31 Washington (H-Feb. 9) — No. 64 Oregon (H-Jan. 19) — No. 102 UCLA (A-Jan. 24) — No. 127 Georgia (A-Dec. 15)
LOSSES: No. 96 USC (A-Jan. 26) — No. 107 Stanford (A-Jan. 12) — No. 125 Vanderbilt (A-Dec. 17)
REMAINING GAMES (4): No. 80 Colorado (A-Feb. 13) — No. 85 Arizona (A-Mar. 9) — No. 89 Oregon State (A-Mar. 3) — No. 97 Utah (A-Feb. 16)
--It won’t make a huge difference but watch out for that Vanderbilt loss to fall into Q3. The Commodores have been trending down in recent weeks and are dangerously close to that NET No. 135 cut-off.
Quadrant 3 (Home vs. NET Nos. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Away vs. 136-240)
WINS: No. 80 Colorado (H-Jan. 5) — No. 85 Arizona (H-Jan. 31) — No. 89 Oregon State (H-Jan. 17)
LOSSES: No. 97 Utah (H-Jan. 3)
REMAINING GAMES (1): No. 107 Stanford (H-Feb. 20)
Quadrant 4 (Home vs. NET Nos. 161+, Neutral vs. 201+, Away vs. 241+)
WINS: No. 165 Cal State Fullerton (H-Nov. 6) — No. 177 Omaha (H-Nov. 28) — No. 217 Texas Southern (H-Dec. 1) — No. 226 Long Beach State (H-Nov. 12) — No. 265 California (A-Jan. 9) — No. 318 McNeese (H-Nov. 9)
LOSSES: No. 162 Princeton (H-Dec. 29), No. 176 Washington State (H-Feb. 7)
REMAINING GAMES (1): No. 265 California (H-Feb. 24)
--Princeton remains right below that NET No. 160 cut-off to get back into Q3. Washington State isn’t far either, so root for those two teams down the stretch, if you’re an ASU fan. To eliminate both Q4 losses from this résumé would be huge
One of the first things you may have noticed, if you’ve been following along with this series of résumé analysis columns, is that the remaining number of Q1 games looks even thinner than normal. That’s because it is.
Up until a few days ago, Arizona and Oregon State were both Top 75 teams, along with Oregon, and the trio of road contests against those schools — which closes out ASU’s schedule — would have been back-to-back-to-back Q1 opportunities.
There’s a scenario in which the Wildcats and Beavers push back into the Top 75 and that can still be the case. There’s also a very possible scenario in which the Ducks fall back out of the Top 75, and ASU finishes Pac-12 play the way it started, with just one Q1 game on its slate.
Spin it however you want. Knocking off Washington was gigantic because ASU might not have a chance to do anything like that again until Selection Sunday unless the two rematch in Las Vegas.
Comparing ASU to other bubble teams is incredibly difficult.
The Sun Devils metrics don’t really line up — well, most of them at least. The two Q4 losses stick out like sore thumbs, too.
But assuming that win over UW slips back into Q1, ASU’s Q1 record is on par with teams who are, at the moment, sitting rather comfortably in the field.
We saw the committee value wins last year — and seemed to do so again with its recent Top 16 seeds release — which is the sole reason the Sun Devils got in the field in 2017-18. This year’s wins, individually speaking, aren’t as impressive, but there are certainly just as many, if not more, under that “marquee wins” heading.
So, with that in mind, yes, I still think Arizona State is an NCAA Tournament team.
But, surprise, surprise, the Sun Devils are no lock, especially looking at they have to do next: Win on the road.
Five of ASU’s last seven contests will be played away from home, and, as was previously mentioned, there’s a chance that as many as three of those five will be Q1 games.
I don’t know if the Sun Devils definitively have to sweep one of their two remaining road weekends — the Mountain schools and the Oregon schools — but it certainly wouldn’t hurt, especially when Colorado and Utah are the opponents this weekend. On paper, that sweep is more than doable. Oregon and OSU will be more difficult, but, cross that bridge when you get to it.
The importance of sweeping Colorado and Utah doesn’t necessarily lie in the good that it will do for ASU’s résumé, but it really just sets up the Sun Devils to have some breathing room going into those final three games. There’s no reason that ASU can’t win its next four games — it had better win the latter two, at home against Stanford and Cal — and enter that gauntlet last stretch with 20 wins.
And, while nothing’s set in stone, 21 or 22 wins by Selection Sunday is probably the magic number. Winning the next four — by far the most winnable of the remaining seven, without a doubt — would pay major dividends in that effort.
There’s plenty of reason to believe ASU won’t do that, though, and we’ll dig into the ramifications of that if the Sun Devils lose to either of this weekend’s opponents. Don’t worry, though, said ramifications won’t be too destructive. These are both Q2 games.
But for now, my advice is simple and pretty unoriginal: Expect the worst, and hope for the best.
What else can you do when this team goes on the road?