A year ago, the Arizona State women’s basketball team was the hunted in the NCAA Tournament.
As Pac-12 co-champion, ASU was a No. 2 NCAA seed – highest in school history – and hosting in the first and second rounds for a second consecutive year.
Now, the Sun Devils are the hunter.
They are a No. 8 seed traveling to South Carolina for a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. Friday against No. 9 Michigan State (21-11). If the Sun Devils (19-12) advance, they will face the winner between No. 1-seed South Carolina (27-4) and No. 16 UNC Asheville (19-14).
ASU lost 60-58 to South Carolina early in the 2015-16 season during a tournament in Hawaii.
ASU is making its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance (five is the school record 2005-09), all including current seniors Sophie Brunner, Quinn Dornstauder and Kelsey Moos, who are a combined 97-35 in their careers. The Sun Devils are 17-14 all-time in 15 NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Elite Eight in 2007 and 2009.
NCAA: Tournament guide
Last season, the Sun Devils drew arguably the worst possible second-round opponent in No. 7-seed Tennessee, which underachieved in the regular season but with Diamond DeShields was a postseason threat. DeShields came through with 14 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter of a 75-64 win, depriving ASU of a second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
This season, the Sun Devils are 1-9 against teams ranked in the Sagarin top 25 in part due to young front-court players and a foot injury that sidelined Moos for six weeks. Moos and freshman forward Jamie Ruden are back for the postseason. ASU’s strength of schedule (Sagarin) is No. 5 nationally.
Seven Pac-12 teams made the 64-team NCAA field, announced Monday. Stanford and Oregon State are No. 2 seeds, Washington No. 3 and UCLA No. 4. All are eligible to host a sub-regional, but Stanford is unable to do so because of a conflict with the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championships so the Cardinal is opening at Kansas State. California is a No. 9 seed playing at No. 1 seed Baylor, and Oregon is a No. 10 seed playing at No. 2 Duke.
The No. 1 overall seed is undefeated defending champion Connecticut, which could face UCLA in the Sweet 16.