NCAA Tournament Preview: #2 Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats are appropriately seeded as a #2. You can’t lose to the 100th, 117th, and 70th KenPom rated teams (104, 131, and 102 by RPI) while the rest of the elites are dropping games like “Duke,” “Georgetown,” or “no-losses-whatsoever.” It’s just how it goes. Besides, the West is what was most important to this group. But let’s also not ignor the fact that since getting that crap out of their system, the Wildcats have destroyed teams. Obliterated. They enter this tournament hotter than any summer-in-Tucson analogy I could come up with. Gander this chart summarizing each of the top eight seeds in their last eleven games:

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You know how they say the cream rises to the top? Well in the crapshoot of the SWAC someone had to win so why not Mike Davis’ Tigers? This rated as the worst conference in the country and every team rated worse than 200th in KenPom and RPI (except TSU who rated 125th in RPI likely for having played Michigan State (a win), K-State (a win), Indiana, SMU, Baylor, Florida, Gonzaga, and Tennessee). So if nothing else they’ve been battle tested and their coach – the aforementioned Mike Davis – has been to more Final Fours than every Pac-12 coach combined. These are facts. Also coming out of the facts department:

  • They’re an average offense that gets to the FT line at a very high rate (14th nationally in FT rate). They don’t shoot the three well (32%) or often (31.4% of shots) which usually doesn’t bode well for an upset minded small school.
  • Defensively they’re…bad. They rate 220th in the nation yielding 104.9 points per 100 adjusted possessions. That’s only a little better than Washington State’s defense which was the worst in the Pac-12. Let’s also note that the SWAC featured seven offenses that rated worse than 300th including the nation’s worst offense, Grambling state.
  • Chris Thomas is their best player and was once a Top-10 recruit. Things didn’t necessarily remain that way but he’s having a nice season for the Tigers: 13/5/2.
  • The last 15-seed to beat a 2-seed was Andy Enfield’s Florida Gulf team.


  • The obvious one is the looming rematch with Wisconsin. I was there and it ripped my heart out. Subjectively it was a remarkable basketball contest that came down to a final shot. Evidently this is only the second time the committee has manufactured a repeat 1v2 regional final. If it comes to fruition, it could be an even higher level game than last year. Whoa.
  • Nestled in the lower half of the West region are Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes and Chris Mack’s Xavier Musketeers. The former is Sean Miller’s mentor, the latter his mentee. It’s unlikely that Miller and Mack will square off but the likelihood of a Miller-Matta second round game is pretty high. Twice Miller has been eliminated by the man he once coached for. And it’s the only two times they’ve squared off. Of note: That VCU-tOSU game rates as one of the fiercest 7-10 games in ages.
  • Sean Miller has never been to the Final Four. He’d also never coached an offense scoring this efficiently, had the same point guard two years in a row at Arizona, won the Pac-12 tournament, or even been a two-seed.


“I have lot of Big Ten bias and I’ve watched Wisconsin play…But I came away from that Arizona game thinking now that team has it all, really has it all.”

John Beilein

“They’re the one team that could take out Kentucky,” – Anonymous but Veteran NBA scout in a Forbes article


Others are saying it and I’ll say it too: This team can win the National Championship. It goes without saying that it won’t be easy. They’ll likely have to win a game in spite of a bad offensive night, get a little luck, and play two or three near perfect contests. But a perfect Arizona game is better than just about any other team’s. A few concerns include a hot D’Angelo Russell; Baylor’s athleticism and their ability to shoot threes, offensive rebound (both of which could get Arizona off their game) and their zone; UNC can never be taken lightly particularly after scoring the third most points against Virginia this season; and good grief Wisconsin is good. We can compare this year to last year but it would only upset Wildcat fans. Wisconsin is the same team they were…only much better. But so too is Arizona. Sean Miller recently said as much. He has world’s of confidence in his team and they came together this season to take care of their unfinished business. Here’s that chance.

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