For the Arizona State Sun Devils, optimism has been hard to come by this season.
Early-season publications ranked the Sun Devils as high as fourth in the Pac-10 Conference and as low as ninth. No one predicted the Sun Devils would nosedive straight to the bottom of the conference.
Yet, as the Pac-10 Conference tournament opens Wednesday night, the 10th-seeded Sun Devils will be playing the No. 7 seed Oregon Ducks at the Staples Center.
Although ASU finished the regular season with a 12-18 (4-14 Pac-10) record, the Sun Devils did beat Oregon twice this season, including a 73-53 win last Thursday.
Beating the same opponent twice in a season is difficult, but three times would be a rarity, especially for the struggling Sun Devils. Late-game follies and dreadful free-throw shooting have hurt the bad-luck team all season.
However, there is still hope in the Valley of the Sun.
After dismantling both Oregon schools at full strength by a combined total of 34 points, ASU has a winning streak for the first time since Christmas.
And once March comes, it's all about confidence.
Right now, both Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks are playing up to preseason expectations and are fully recovered from injury.
Against Oregon State, the senior duo combined for 40 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, four steals and one block. That is a pretty impressive one-two punch, but not every team in the Pac-10 is named Oregon State.
The Sun Devils did in fact lose nine straight conference games in January and February, including two losses to the UCLA Bruins.
Fans will need to be optimistic if the Bruins and Sun Devils meet for a third time. The winner of Wednesday’s Ducks-Sun Devils matchup will be rewarded by playing the second-seeded UCLA Bruins (22-9, 13-5 Pac-10) on Thursday.
Although, if you believe in luck or hope for the best, that might not be necessary in roundball.
If the Sun Devils continue their hot shooting form and beat the Ducks, confidence is all they'll need to advance further.