Anxious Sun Devils Await Selection Sunday

Ever since its heartbreaking loss to USC on Thursday, ASU has been in the dreaded wait and see mode. Its chances for qualifying to the NCAA tournament have changed, at least according to some pundits, with great frequency. Coach Sendek and his squad have been following those experts and the teams that may determine their fate, and can do nothing but try and remain patient for the official word.

There's no sense in denying the fact that anxiousness among the maroon and gold doesn't exist. Sendek knows this sentiment will always be in the air, and will only consume to the extent each and every player chooses to embrace or ignore it.

"You're probably better off controlling those types of emotions," said Sendek while meeting with reporters on Saturday afternoon. "Some individuals can do it better than others depending on the circumstances. But it's certainly challenging avoiding those type of feelings right now. I think everybody, by and large, are on edge."

The controversial ending to their contest against USC has naturally created a lot of frustration among the maroon and gold. Time hasn't been a healer for the strong sense of frustration the Sun Devils are still feeling. Their coach believes that this emotion may in fact been magnified ever since the game ended.

"After the game Thursday there was still enough ‘noise'," Sendek explained. "There were still enough people to talk to. Everybody was still at the funeral, metaphorically speaking. It's a lot worse when everyone goes home and you wake up the next morning, you're by yourself, and the reality of what happened sets in. That was my experience. My experience wasn't I woke up and all of sudden felt better."

"I was comforted and distracted Thursday by everything around me, all the people. And then when I woke up Friday morning (the team left Los Angeles that day) it was quiet, I didn't have the distractions and all of a sudden the truth of what happened set in."

There have been a handful of games this season where conference referees have been guilty of crucial calls (or non-calls) that affected game's outcomes. Thus, the question has been raised if there needs to be a review of Pac-10 officiating. Sendek feels that it's always important in general to review, improve and strive to get better.

"We do that everyday as coaches. Even when we win games – we watch tape," he said. "I think our officials do that. They have instructional videos, they have clinics. I don't think it's a function of them not doing those things already."

Forward Jeff Pendergraph, the player who was the key figure in the debatable foul call that prevented ASU from tying up the game with 16 seconds left in the contest, has put that painful incident behind him and "left it in L.A." since Friday morning. "There's no need to bring it to Arizona," he explained.

Pendergraph is fairly confident about the Sun Devils' chances of receiving an invitation to the big dance. He may be the exception to his teammates as he isn't stressing over what Sunday afternoon's announcement will bring, and knows that one way or another he and his teammates aren't done playing this season. "Being in some type of post-season play is better than nothing," he stated. "Last year this time I sleeping on my Mom's couch enjoying my spring break."

All season long ASU has been a team that has shown resiliency after being repeatedly knocked down, and the Sun Devil junior certainly hopes the selection committee will take that in consideration. "I think the people on the committee don't just look at stat lines to see who's good and who's not," said Pendergraph. "They watch the game and they know the game. I think they'll make the right decision of who should be in and who shouldn't. It's in their hands and we'll just go with the flow."

In years past, it wasn't unusual for conferences such as the ACC or Big East to have teams with a .500 or slightly below conference record qualify for the NCAA tournament. Up until this year, no Pac-10 team with an even conference record has been a part of March Madness and on Sunday that fact is about to be a thing of the past. Sendek agrees wholeheartedly that the Pac-10 commends the level of respect that would allow its mid-level teams to make the tournament.

"From what I gather, we're the number one conference in the country. If you talk to objective basketball people that would tell you that intuitively," Said Sendek. "I can't tell you how many NBA scouts have told me that – guys who night in and night out travel the country and watch games on a regular basis in every conference."

At the end of the day, the Sun Devil skipper knows that the degree of weight committee members put on the numerous variables in the equation, will determine those teams that are in and those that are left out. Therefore, different committee members will arrive at come at different answers.

One thing Sendek is convinced about is that the committee has no magic number of teams that have to be taken from any given conference. Naturally, the ASU coach would be disappointed if his team didn't qualify, but he won't limit that disappointment to whether teams that finished below ASU would qualify in its place.

"I hope the Pac-10 gets in as many teams as possible. I want our league to show well. Hopefully the other teams in our league feel the same way."

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