Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne could see it coming. In 2005, ASU went to Fresno, Calif., for the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament. In 2006 it was Tucson. Last year, the Sun Devils went to Los Angeles. It was bound to happen.
"I was pretty sure we were probably going to get sent East," Turner Thorne said after the selections were announced Monday afternoon. "We've stayed West for a while in the tournament and I think we've played that Saturday game. You know, it's kind of our turn to get shipped out East and maybe play the Sunday game."
The No. 6-seeded Sun Devils will play the late game (approximately 6:30 p.m. Arizona time) in the College Park, Md., subregional on Sunday, facing No. 11 seed Temple (21-12).
They are paired with No. 3 Duke and No. 14 Murray State at College Park, with the winners set to meet on Tuesday.
Turner Thorne said she believed the team would get no higher than a 6 seed. She was right. The Sun Devils have earned trips to the Big Dance four years in a row, but were seeded Nos. 5, 4 and 3 in the previous three years and got to stay close to home.
"That's why we travel," Turner Thorne said. "We go to Cancun (Mexico), we went to North Carolina. We also travel in the preseason, so it won't be any big thing."
The Sun Devils earned the seed after going 21-10 and finishing third in the Pac-10 at 14-4. All their losses have come to either Stanford (a No. 2 seed) or California (a No. 3) since finishing their brutal nonconference schedule 6-5.
Knowing they weren't going to get close to last season's school-best No. 3 seed, the Sun Devils were prepared for anything, even with subregionals at Palo Alto, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M.
"Charli was telling us we were projected anywhere from a 6 to a 10, so it's nice to get that 6 seed heading into the tournament," guard Briann January said. "So we are excited."
ASU goes into the tournament having won five of its past six and peaking, despite the loss to California in the Pac-10 tournament semifinals.
"Maybe not so much pressure and not as many expectations," guard Reagan Pariseau said. "Last year, I think there was a bit more pressure. This year, not as much. We are the underdog. As much as people see us, we are the underdog for what we want to accomplish."
Another possible distraction could be that potential second-round matchup with Duke.
Temple, which tied with George Washington for the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, was the tournament runner-up after losing to Xavier 47-42. The Owls had won the conference tournament four years in a row, all under coach Dawn Staley.
That the Owls are coached by a WNBA All-Star was the first thing on the minds of the Sun Devils.
"I've seen them play on TV a few times," Pariseau said. "Obviously a great team coached by Dawn Staley. So we are really excited and finally know who we are playing and where we are going."
Temple is one of three Atlantic 10 teams in the field of 64. George Washington is a No. 6 seed in the Greensboro Region and Xavier is a No. 9 in the Spokane Region.
"I think it will be fun," Pariseau said. "I've never been to College Park."
Temple had won seven in a row before losing to Xavier and 14 of 15. Its only other loss? Xavier.
The Owls are led by Ashley Morris, the Atlantic 10's Most Improved Player, who averaged 15.1 points and 4.5 assists per game.
She also led the team from outside the arc, making 34 percent of her 3-point attempts, nearly making two per game.
Six-foot-2 Lady Comfort led the Owls with 8.5 rebounds per game and 37 blocked shots this season.
ASU has met Temple twice before - both times in Tempe, once in 1982 and again in 1987. The Sun Devils won both.