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March 16, 2014

ASU will play Texas in NCAA opener



Arizona State is headed back to the Big Dance.

For the second time in eight seasons under ASU head coach Herb Sendek, the Sun Devils have made it to the NCAA Tournament.

The Sun Devils received a No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region and will face No. 7 seed Texas in Milwaukee, Wisc., Thursday at approximately 6:40 p.m. Arizona time. The winner of that game will play the winner of No. 2 Michigan versus No. 15 Wofford.

"We finally made it, and now we're part of March Madness," ASU senior center Jordan Bachynski said. "You're going to see some of the best basketball we've had all year and I really do believe that because we believe in ourselves."

ASU is entering the tournament at 21-11 overall and 10-9 in Pac-12 play, including its opening round loss to Stanford in the conference tournament. The Sun Devils are ranked No. 42 in the RPI and are one of the six Pac-12 teams that made it into the Tournament.

Since defeating No. 1 seed Arizona in a double overtime game on Feb. 14, the Sun Devils have lost five of their last seven games. ASU hasn't won away from Tempe, Ariz. since Jan. 29.

"We know this is basically a new season for us," sophomore point guard Jahii Carson said. "We just press reset. We had a rocky road, but this a new start for us."

Echoing his players' remarks about seeing the Tournament as a fresh start for the team, Sendek said, "Everybody has a sense of rebirth going into the Tournament."

While acknowledging his team hasn't been playing its best over the last few games, Sendek said the Sun Devils have played a lot on the road of late against very good teams.

Despite their recent struggles, the Sun Devils know they have at least one more shot to be out on the court representing ASU basketball.

"Words can't describe how excited I am," senior guard Jermaine Marshall said. "Fortunately this is my second time actually playing in the NCAA Tournament. I didn't play as much as a role as I do on this team so I'm just excited, just ready to go. Juiced up, ready to redeem ourselves from this last week."

Ready to leave their first three-game losing streak of the season in the rear view mirror, the Sun Devils have been putting in extra hours of practice on their own.

"I got in the gym today, got extra shots up and as I was leaving I saw Jermaine come in and so guys are still getting in the gym working on their game," Bachynski said. "It just shows you how dedicated we are."

The Longhorns enter the Tournament with a 23-10 overall record, losing to Baylor in the Big-12 conference tournament quarterfinal. Texas has made the NCAA Tournament in 14 of its last 15 seasons.

"They're tournament bred, every year pretty much," Carson said. "You know, they got great players, they beat great teams, but I think we're confident that we have great players too. We can play with any team in the country. We just focus on us being confident, being prepared."

Sendek worked under Texas head coach Rick Barnes during the 1988-1989 season when both were at Providence College and the team made it to the Tourney.

"He's somebody who I consider a great friend, somebody who is not only a great basketball coach, but even a better person," Sendek said. "He's a kind of man that if you have a son that's who you want him to play for. He's that good a person. So I have a tremendous respect for coach and what he's been able to do at Texas over the years is incredible. He's really taken the program to unprecedented and sustained heights."

Sendek is 7-7 in the NCAA Tournament incluidng 6-1 in first-round games. He was 1-1 with Miami (Ohio) in 1995, and then took NC State to five straight NCAA Tournaments from 2002 to 2006, winning in the first round in four of those years.

Texas is leading the series 3-1 with the last meeting taking place back in November of 1999 in Puerto Rico.

This is ASU's 14th NCAA appearance and first since 2009. ASU has a 13-14 record in the Tournament and has reached the Final Eight on three occasions (1961, 1963 and 1975).

In 2009 under Sendek ASU was seeded No. 6 and beat No. 11 Temple in the first round in Miami, Fla., but then fell to No. 3 Syracuse in the next round.


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