Arizona State gets NCAA Tournament berth, takes on Syracuse in play-in game

TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State’s NCAA Tournament drought is over after four years.

The Sun Devils (20-11) survived a shaky finish to the regular season to earn one of the last four at-large bids in the 2018 Tournament. They will head to Dayton, Ohio, for a play-in game vs. Syracuse (20-13) on Wednesday at approximately 6:10 p.m. (Arizona time) at the University of Dayton Arena. The game will be televised on TruTV.

If ASU wins on Wednesday, it will move on to Detroit to take on TCU (21-11), the sixth seed in the Midwest Regional.

The Sun Devils opened the season with 12 consecutive wins and were ranked as high as No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25, but they stumbled once Pac-12 play began, finishing eighth in the conference standings with an 8-10 record and then losing to Colorado in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament. But the Sun Devils were rewarded for their mastery of a challenging non-conference schedule, which included early victories over two teams that earned No. 1 seeds: Xavier and Kansas. The Sun Devils also had non-conference wins over two other tournament teams – San Diego State and Kansas State and went 5-2 overall against tournament teams, with both losses coming against Pac-12 champion Arizona.

The Sun Devils suffered a first-round loss to Texas in their last tournament appearance in 2014, falling 87-85 on a buzzer beater by the Longhorns.

They last played Syracuse in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, losing 78-67 in the Round of 32 in Miami.

The Sun Devils are led by a trio of senior guards in Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice. Holder earned All-Pac-12 honors while averaging 18.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Evans, who played in the NCAA Tournament for ASU coach Bobby Hurley at Buffalo in 2015, averages 16.6 points per game, and Justice averages 12.6 points per game. All three made 66 or more 3-point shots while shooting 37 percent or better.

Syracuse finished 8-10 in the ACC and lost to North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. The Orange return to the NCAA Tournament after one-year absence. It’s their 33rd tournament appearance in 42 years under coach Jim Boeheim, and they advanced to the Final Four as a No. 10 seed just two years ago.

They got off to a 10-1 start but stumbled to four consecutive losses in ACC play in early January. A 55-52 win over 18th-ranked Clemson in the regular-season finale helped put them into play for an at-large berth. They also own wins over Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Buffalo.

The Orange counter ASU’s top threats with a potent trio of their own. Sophomore guard Tyus Battle averages 19.8 points per game, junior point guard Frank Howard contributes 15 points and 5 assists and freshman forward Oshae Brissett averages 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.

The Orange shoot just 41.8 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from 3-point range, while ASU makes 46.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent on 3-pointers.