Will they or won't they? The next three games will ultimately conclude the consternations about whether the Arizona State men's basketball team earns its first automatic spot in the NCAA tournament, nabs one of the handful of at-large bids remaining or plays in that three-letter tournament (NIT).
Will they or won't they?
The next three games will ultimately conclude the consternations about whether the Arizona State men's basketball team earns its first automatic spot in the NCAA tournament, nabs one of the handful of at-large bids remaining or plays in that three-letter tournament (NIT).
Publicly, at least, the Sun Devils said they'd happily play in the NIT, but since they already played the preseason edition in November, this weekend's plan is to add another win (or two or three) and play in the four-letter tournament instead.
The journey through this juxtaposition and toward jubilation starts with Stanford on Thursday in the Pac-10 tournament.
Start your guessing, theorizing, historical referencing, Bracketology and simulations.
"I don't know. I think one or two (wins)," senior guard Derek Glasser said. "I think if we get to the championship game (Saturday afternoon) we're for sure in. One win, I think we'll be sitting there Sunday like we were (two years ago) hoping and praying.
"I know if we lose Thursday, we're not in. I can tell you that."
For others, it's either a black-and-white issue or it remains too complicated to figure out what's needed for another three days.
"All wins," junior Ty Abbott said. "That's my gut feeling."
In the past two weeks, the Sun Devils acknowledged that a game or two that got away from earlier this season could have otherwise made this a moot point. Most notably, ASU led by nine points midway through the second half against Baylor but lost. The UCLA loss (72-70) to begin conference play also didn't help.
A relatively easy nonconference schedule is an issue, as is the Pac-10's reputation for not being the elite league it's been in previous years.
For what he feels is the umpteenth time, ASU coach Herb Sendek defended the league again this week, noting its improvement from December through the present.
The Sun Devils have also won 12 of 16 games since starting 0-2 in the Pac-10, but both insiders and outsiders realize 22 wins may not be enough.
"ASU just doesn't have enough wins of any quality," collegerpi.com owner/operator Jerry Palm wrote in an e-mail. "(San Diego State) and (Washington) at home isn't much to hang your hat on, and certainly doesn't overcome the bad losses."
Further clouding this line is the rest of the prospective field of 65. Two handfuls and perhaps as many as 20 teams figure to fight for eight or nine at-large spots.
Arizona State breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday night when 12th-ranked Butler beat Wright State for the Horizon League championship. Had Wright State won, another at-large bid would have been taken because Wright State would have received an automatic spot (as conference tournament champion) and Butler would have taken an at-large spot.
So go these scenarios across every major conference for the rest of this weekend.
"The more wins you have, the better your position is," Sendek said. "That's obvious. But I don't know that anybody can say with certainty, because it's not just a function of what we do but what happens around the country. There's still so much basketball to be played, as crazy as it sounds to me because we're in the final weekend."
If ASU manages to beat Stanford for a third time this season, the Sun Devils would play the Washington-Oregon State winner on Friday night.
If it's, say, Washington, and the Sun Devils beat the Huskies to at least advance to the tournament championship game, are they in? What if ASU beats Oregon State? Would a win and loss to Washington be enough, or would that knock the Sun Devils out?
Questions easily outnumber answers, but the Sun Devils came up with one solution:
"We have to win and keep winning," Abbott said. "There's nothing else to it."