On Feb. 10, Arizona State was ranked No. 11 in the nation, Vanderbilt was 16th, and it appeared the two might make a quality Sweet 16 matchup. However, the Sun Devils (22-9) would drop six of their last eight, the Commodores (18-12) would lose nine of 11, and the two will square off as eight and nine seeds in the first round of the Notre Dame Region at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT, ESPN2) Saturday in Toledo, Ohio.
The Commodores are making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 12th since Melanie Balcomb arrived from Xavier. Last season, also as an eighth seed, they defeated St. Joseph’s in the first round, 60-54, before eventual champion Connecticut buried them 77-44.
Christina Foggie led the SEC in scoring at 19.1 points per game in being named first-team all-conference and third-team All-American. The 5-9 senior guard also has drained a school-record 274 three pointers.
Senior guard Jasmine Lister is the Cal Ripken of the program, starting all 127 games since her freshman season and is the school’s all-time minutes-played leader. At 5-foot-4, Lister averages 13.9 points and a team-high 4.7 assists.
Sophomore guard Morgan Batey leads the Commodores with 5.4 rebounds per game. Freshman Rebekah Dahlman was third on the team, averaging 11.4 points, before being sidelined for the season with an injury after nine games.
The biggest win for Vanderbilt this season was 74-63 at home over archrival Tennessee, and it also defeated Texas A&M (71-69) and Dayton (82-52), with close losses at Kentucky (65-63) and versus South Carolina (61-57 and 76-66). Vanderbilt suffered a 19-point loss at Duke, and the Lady Vols dominated, 81-53, in the rubber match at Knoxville. They fell to ninth-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, 53-43, and were one of five teams to finish 7-9 in the SEC, three of which composed the eight teams the league sent to the NCAA Tournament (Georgia and LSU being the others).
Relying heavily on the guards, Foggie and Lister, Vanderbilt led the SEC in three pointers, was second in assists and free throws and third in field goal percentage. They were last, however, in rebounding, blocked shots and allowed opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field.
This will be the first time ASU plays an SEC team this season, although it was 3-0 against the ACC, with two of those teams (North Carolina and Syracuse) receiving high seeds in the Tournament. This is the Sun Devils’ 12th NCAA appearance and ninth under Charli Turner Thorne, who would like to erase the memory of 61-35 loss to the Commodores in the second round of the 2002 Tournament. That year was the last time Vanderbilt reached the regional final, something ASU did in 2007 and 2009, and it its lone Final Four was in 1993, falling to Sheryl Swoopes’ Texas Tech team.
The winner of Saturday’s game will meet either undefeated Notre Dame or Northeast Conference champion Robert Morris Monday night.