NIT provides new post-season chapter

Getting over the discontent of being left out of the NCAA tournament may be easier said than done for the Sun Devil basketball team. Yet, for a squad that showed resiliency several times during the 2009-10 campaign, the NIT tournament and the matchup against Jacksonville on Tuesday should be an opportunity for the maroon and gold to once again bounce back from an adverse situation.

"Missing out of the NCAA's is definitely disappointing," said senior center Eric Boateng. "But I can't sit here and lament about that all day or talk about things that we could have done better. We're going to learn from our experiences of the past. This season isn't over. We are still in the NIT. We still have basketball to play and hopefully a championship to win.

"We have a game tomorrow so we turn the page and it's a new chapter. We're in the NIT now and that's our focus. We've shifted our energy and focus and hopes in that direction, in terms of playing well, getting to New York and winning a championship."

For the second time in three years, Arizona State was given a #1 seed in the NIT.

"It' a recognition of the quality season that we had," said Head Coach Herb Sendek who led his squad to a 22-10 record, "and hopefully we'll play well in the tournament."

The Sun Devil skipper admitted that he knew before the NCAA tournament selection show that the maroon and gold were not going to be part of the big dance. The dissatisfaction level may have been even higher this year since the Sun Devils are the first team from a high-major conference to finish second in their respective league at the end of the regular season and not be invited to the NCAA tournament.

At the same time, don't expect ASU to throw itself a pity party.

"We must demand from ourselves that we learn from the experience and quickly move forward," commented Sendek, "and do the best that we can today (in preparations) and with the game tomorrow. We're going to make sure that we always have a good accounting of ourselves. I expect our guys to be resilient, focus on the right things. They have a very good habit of doing that."

Sendek genuinely feels that his team has an outstanding season, and was given "strong consideration" in the selection committee meetings. The loss in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament to Stanford, quickly changed the Sun Devils from a team that was expected to barely make it into the field of 65, to being of one the first squads to just miss the cut.

"There are a lot of teams which if you listen to their advocates can make a very compelling case for why they deserve to be in," explained Sendek. "I think a representative for ASU could do the same. It's a fine line and every extra game played changes it.

"We weren't dramatically a different team when we were considered to be in the field by the pundits, than when we were out. We're pretty much a constant. But the way the thing plays out now with the conference tournaments it changes based on what happens around the country. The number of upsets impact your standing, unless you are a team that is at the very top."

Some contend that ASU's non-conference schedule is one reason for the Sun Devils being snubbed on Selection Sunday. While Sendek said that this aspect will be reviewed, he also defended that portion of games and claimed that some teams that did receive invites to the NCAA tournament didn't have as challenging of a non-conference schedule as ASU did.

"Scheduling is always a function of the team that you are going to have in a given year, to put that team in particular in the best chance to be successful," stated Sendek. "What I have learned at ASU is that scheduling is very much a function of who will play you. It's easy to sit back and say we would like to play this team and this team on these dates at these locations. But what we found here at Arizona State is that the selection process isn't a one-way street and it's not that easy.

"But I thought that our non-conference schedule was once again very well balanced and representative. You look at our three non-conference losses: Duke a no. 1 seed, at BYU where they are almost undefeated forever, a high seed in the tournament, and Baylor a team many think can advance very far in the tournament. So we played arguably the best three teams in the country, played San Diego State, another tournament team who has had a tremendous season.

"Our league has 18 conference games so we have two less non-conference games to schedule than the ACC, SEC, and the Big 12. So I don't know how many more (non-conference games) you play to have balance."

Sendek argued that the caliber of play of the various Pac-10 teams was higher in the beginning of 2010 than it was at the end of 2009.

"For instance, Cal had one win over an RPI top-50 team" said Sendek, "but when they played a preponderance of those games, one of their very best players, Theo Robertson, was injured. Southern Cal lost some games early on and then added Mike Gerrity. Teams reconfigured, continued to get better, but no matter what we did at that point because we were playing ourselves, we couldn't budge those numbers."

"Not to say that we were the best conference because we weren't."

Thanks to Andrew Gruman who assisted on this article


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