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It’s been a tough road for the Sun Devils to get back to the dance.

After going 8-22 in Sendek’s first season in 2006-07, Arizona State won 21 games and didn’t get an NCAA invite in 2008. The Sun Devils were in the bracket during a 25-win season in 2009, but were left out the following season after going 22-11.

A pair of losing seasons followed and Arizona State won 21 games last season, but didn’t get in.

There were some tense moments as the Sun Devils watched Selection Sunday together and erupted in cheers when their name went up on the screen.

“It’s hard not to be (emotional) in a situation like this,” ASU center Jordan Bachynski said. “You put your whole everything into this. Your blood, literally your blood. Your sweat. Your tears. Your emotions. Everything you have goes into this. We’re working hard every day to make the tournament, to win games. To have this happen to us is a dream come true.”

The matchup will allow Sendek to reunite with a close friend, though from opposing sidelines.

Sendek and Texas coach Rick Barnes met in 1978 and were on the same staff for a season when Barnes was the head coach at Providence. They never worked together again, but stayed in touch and remain friends today.

“He’s somebody who I consider a great friend, somebody who is not only a great basketball coach, but even a better person,” Sendek said. “He’s the kind of man that if you have a son, that’s who you want him to play for. He’s that good of person. I just have tremendous respect for coach. What he’s been able to do at Texas over the years is incredible. He’s really taken that program to unprecedented and sustained heights.”

With a return to the NCAA tournament, Sendek is hoping to do the same thing in the desert.