Pac-12 Tournament has been a disaster zone for Sun Devils

As Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley prepares to take his team into Pac-12 Tournament play for the second time on Wednesday, he does so trying to reverse a long history of disappointment for the Sun Devils in the event.

The Pac-10/Pac-12 Tournament has been a black hole for Arizona State basketball.

Whether it's been in Los Angeles or Las Vegas, in the last 15 years the Sun Devils have vanished without a trace just about every time they've neared its gravitational field. 

Since the conference tournament resumed in 2001-02, Arizona State is 3-14, the worst record in the league just ahead of 3-13 Washington State. Two of those ASU wins came in just one season, when it went 2-1 and reached the finals before losing as the No. 4 seed to No. 6 USC 66-63 in heartbreaking fashion. 

In the 14 other most recent years of tournament history -- there was no tournament between 1990 and 2002 -- the Sun Devils have won just one game in 13 appearances. ASU did not make the tournament in 2004, when the two worst teams in the league did not participate. 

Of course, almost all of that futility predates the arrival of second-year coach Bobby Hurley, who lost his first tournament game last year as a No. 11 seed. 

Rob Evans coached ASU in the first five years after the tournament resumed and never won a game. He turned in an 0-4 record that included an 83-82 loss to No. 5 Oregon as a No. 4 seed with one of the program's best teams -- an NCAA Tournament second-round elimination --  in the last quarter century. 

In his final year coaching the Sun Devils, Evans' team was up by 15 points over Oregon State in the second half of a first-round Pac-10 game in 2006 before losing 71-68. He was fired almost immediately thereafter by then-Athletics Director Lisa Love. 

The man who replaced Evans didn't fare much better. Herb Sendek's teams lost opening round games in 2007 and 2008, which meant the Sun Devils were the only Pac-12 team without a conference tournament win in the seven-year period after reinstitution. 

ASU finally broke through in 2009 when a No. 4 seeded team led by James Harden beat Arizona in the quarterfinals and No. 13 Washington in the semi-finals before losing to the Trojans. 

In the seven seasons since that game the Sun Devils have won just once, and that required overtime in 2013 when No. 9 ASU beat No. 8 Stanford 89-88. 

Of course, it was at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas in 2015 when Sendek himself was sucked into the void never to coach again for the Sun Devils. After leading by 11 points with less than six minutes left the No. 5 Sun Devils lost 67-65 to the No. 12 seeded Trojans in one of the biggest and worst collapses in Tournament history. Sendek was later fired by Athletics Director Ray Anderson after the Sun Devils lost in the second round of the NIT Tournament. 

Yes, ASU's last two coaches were both fired after two of the most embarrassing fail-from-ahead performances in conference tournament history. 

To put a finer point on just how incompetent the Sun Devils have been in the tournament, they've won one-third as many games as Colorado has in three times as many years (15 years for ASU vs five since the Buffaloes joined the league).

Seven teams (Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington) have won as many games in just one year in the tournament as ASU has in the last 15 years total. Colorado became the only team to go 4-0 in the Pac-12 Tournament in 2012, which is one more victory than ASU has in total dating to 1990. 

It would seem that the cosmos has been against ASU so far this century on the basketball court. How long can it reasonably be expected to continue? 

ASU will make its next attempt to reverse a horrible historic trend as the No. 8 seed against No. 9 Stanford at noon (1 p.m. Arizona) in Las Vegas on Wednesday in the tournament's first game. It's a team the Sun Devils have beaten twice already this season, so what could go wrong? 

Perhaps the Tournament's move to a new venue -- The T-Mobile Arena -- will allow the Sun Devils to wipe the slate clean and get headed in a better direction. 

Here's a look at some of the memorable (read: forgettable) moments in ASU's conference tournament history in a year-by-year look. 


In Rob Evans' fourth year with the Sun Devils, the Pac-10 Tournament returned with ASU a No. 7 seed. Only the top eight teams in the league participated in the tournament and ASU lost to the No. 2 seeded Arizona 73-56 in a game that wasn't close. The Sun Devils went on to play in the NIT Tournament, losing in the first round to UNLV and finishing the season 14-15 overall. 


One of just three teams in the last 20 years to make the NCAA Tournament, ASU took an 11-7 record in the Pac-10 into the conference tournament. Ike Diogu, ASU's best post player in a generation, had 27 points and 18 rebounds, but it wasn't enough in the team's 83-82 loss to No. 5 seed Oregon. Evans told his team in the huddle to switch all screens on the game's final possession but forward Tommy Smith failed to do so. The result? A driving Luke Ridnour scored the go-ahead, game-winning basket, on a layup with 3.2 seconds left. 


After the departure of several other key players, the Sun Devils took a big step backwards in 2003-04. They finished 10-17 overall and 4-14 in the Pac-10, a last place showing that kept them out of the Pac-10 Tournament for the only time since the it was brought back in 2002. 


An improved ASU team finished tied for sixth in the Pac-10 and made its way to the NIT in the post-season, but not before losing as the No. 7 seed to No. 2 Washington 95-90 in overtime of the first round of the conference tournament. Huskies' star guard Nate Robinson scored six of his game-high 29 points in overtime as Washington thwarted an ASU comeback attempt. The Huskies led by as many as 18 points in the first half. ASU guards Kevin Krueger and Stevie Moore each had 22 points -- 20 in the second half alone by Moore in one of the best scoring sprees in history -- and Diogu had 21 points and a Pac-12 record five blocks. 


With Diogu gone, ASU slipped to 11-17 overall and 5-13 in the Pac-12, which led to then-coach Rob Evans being fired. The final indignity came in the Pac-10 Tournament. With the league expanding to all 10 teams participating in the conference tournament, the bottom four played on opening night. No. 9 seed ASU lost to No. 8 Oregon State 71-68 in game that saw the Sun Devils choke away a 15-point second half lead as their offense dried up and they were unable to keep the Beavers off the offensive glass. ASU had swept Oregon State in the regular season. 


Sendek took over the program with ASU in full rebuild mode and having lost a scholarship due to a penalizing academic progress rate under Evans. The Sun Devils went 2-16 in the Pac-10 and 8-22 overall, their worst season in decades. A last place finish in the league resulted in a No. 10 seed and a 59-51 loss to No. 7 Washington. 


In its first year with James Harden, ASU dramatically improved and finished 21-11 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-12. ASU beat Arizona twice, Harden was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Sendek garnered recognition for one of the nation's top coaching turnarounds, but the conference tournament still proved problematic. After earning a first round bye, the No. 5 Sun Devils lost to No. 4 USC in overtime, 59-55. USC coach Tim Floyd threw a triangle-and-two defense at Harden and the Sun Devils in the second half, and Sendek has no answer for it. USC was aided by a phantom over-the-back foul call against Jeff Ayers on a put back dunk that led to then-ASU assistant Mark Phelps (now an Arizona assistant) yelling at a referee outside the arena after the game. The official later privately apologized to ASU coaches for missing the call, according to sources. O.J. Mayo led the Trojans with a game-high 23 points in a battle with Harden, who had 16 for the Sun Devils. The loss ended any at-large hopes ASU had at making the NCAA Tournament. ASU went on to make the NIT quarterfinals, with wins over Alabama State and Southern Illinois before a loss to Florida. 


Before this year, the Sun Devils hadn't won a game in six previous tries since the Pac-12 Tournament was brought back in 2002. They were the only winless team in that span. A team that was ranked in the Associated Press poll all season beat Arizona 68-56 in the quarterfinals and No. 13 Washington 75-65 in the semifinals from Staples Center in Los Angeles. In the Pac-12 title game No. 23 USC beat ASU 66-63, as the Sun Devils collapsed yet again after holding a 15-point lead at halftime that was trimmed to just five points in less than seven minutes of the second half on the strength of a press that induced a flurry of turnovers. ASU went on to make the second round of the NCAA Tournament, beating Temple and losing to No. 13 Syracuse and finishing 25-10 overall, its best season since 1994-95. 


Even though Harden left after his sophomore season, ASU didn't really take a step backwards in the 2009-10 regular season. Instead, the Sun Devils went 22-11 and finished second in a down-year for the Pac-10 at 12-6. The result yielded Sendek Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. Even so, No. 2 ASU came out remarkably flat in the Pac-10 Tournament and lost 70-61 to No. 7 seeded Stanford, a team it had already beaten twice in the regular season. Stanford got a bye as the No. 7 seed only because USC was ineligible for the Pac-12 Tournament. ASU looked almost disinterested despite having its NCAA Tournament life hanging in the balance, and only led once in the game, by one point in the second half. Three days later ASU found itself perhaps the last team on the cutting room floor by the NCAA Tournament Selection committed, the first time a second-place finisher in Pac-10 history had been excluded since the field expanded to 64 teams. Many pundits felt ASU was robbed of a berth, but it sealed its own fate with the dreary showing. Five days after the loss ASU appeared to be sleep-walking through a first-round NIT home game against Jacksonville State that ended in a buzzer-beater bank shot to end the Sun Devils season in surreal fashion with a 67-66 defeat. 


Bad recruiting and a failure to capitalize on the addition of Harden on the talent acquisition side led to ASU dropping off big time over a two-year span starting in 2010-11 with a 12-19 record and 4-14 Pac-10 showing. The last place team would lose to No. 7 Oregon 76-69 in the first-round of the league tournament. ASU had earlier beaten Oregon twice in the regular season, two of its four league victories. 


As the league expanded to 12 teams for the fist time, ASU finished 10th overall with a 10-21 season and 6-12 league showing. ASU was easily handled by Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament, 85-65, to end its season. 


For only the second season in a 15-year period, ASU won a game in the Pac-12 Tournament, though it took overtime to accomplish. An improved Sun Devils team hit the 20-win mark and went 9-9 in the Pac-12, earning the No. 9 seed. The Sun Devils downed Stanford 89-88 in a rematch of the 2012 game on the back of freshman guard Jahii Carson, who scored five of his game-high 34 points in overtime. It was the most points scored by a freshman in tournament history and included a 14-of-22 shooting performance that was perhaps the best of Carson's ASU career. The Sun Devils then lost 80-75 to No. 1 UCLA in the second round, before winning in the first round of the NIT Tournament over Detroit and losing in the second round 89-86 to Baylor. 


With Carson leading the team, ASU again won 20 games and finished 10-8 in the Pac-12, earning a No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. But the Sun Devils were drilled by No. 6 Stanford 79-58 in the quarterfinals even though the Cardinal had to play the previous day in the opening round. Stanford was a good team for a No. 6 seed, but ASU's key players -- Carson, center Jordan Bachynski and second-leading scorer Jermaine Marshall -- all struggled to put the ball in the basket. With a strong conference RPI, ASU still made the NCAA Tournament, but had its heart ripped out in an 87-85 loss to No. 7 seed Texas on a buzzer beater that sprawled out ASU's bench in a meme-inducting photographic emblem of its heartache. 


USC once again proved to be Sendek's kryptonite in the conference tournament and this time it probably cost him his job. After leading by 11 points with less than six minutes left the No. 5 Sun Devils lost 67-65 to the No. 12 seeded Trojans in one of the biggest and worst collapses in Tournament history. Sendek was later fired by Athletics Director Ray Anderson. It was Sendek's third loss in three attempts against the Trojans in the tournament, each time coming after ASU looked like it would be victorious. ASU went on to beat Connecticut in the first round in the NIT Tournament before losing at No. 1 Richmond in the second round. 


In the first season under Bobby Hurley ASU finished 15-17 overall and 5-13 in the Pac-12. With a No. 11 seed, ASU played on the opening day in Las Vegas and lost 75-66 to Oregon State to end its season. 

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