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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pac-12 Tournament has major implications for Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament hopes

Allonzo+Trier+%2835%29+and+Kadeem+Allen+%285%29+after+the+Wildcats+win+against+the+Arizona+State+Sun+Devils+on+Saturday%2C+March+4.+The+Wildcats+beat+the+Sun+Devils+73-60.
Simon Asher

Allonzo Trier (35) and Kadeem Allen (5) after the Wildcats’ win against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, March 4. The Wildcats beat the Sun Devils 73-60.

Can you feel it?

Maybe you felt it after Arizona wrapped up the regular season last weekend with a win over the Sun Devils; maybe it hit you yesterday when the Pac-12 Tournament seeds were made official. If you don’t feel it now, check your pulse.

That feeling? The madness of March.

It’s conference championship week all around the country, and while every team is focused on winning their respective conference tournaments, they’re also looking forward to the big dance.

“Are we going to try to win the Pac-12 Tournament? Of course,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “But I think it’s clearly about that next tournament to be the healthiest, most ready you can be. We’re going to use this week, either way, as a positive moving in to the NCAA tournament.”

The real importance of the Pac-12 Tournament is the implications it can have on Arizona’s seed heading in to the NCAA Tournament.

Miller said this was the “most proud” he’s been with his teams at Arizona, and the comments came when asked how important winning the Pac-12 regular season title was. Miller noted that being ready for the NCAA Tournament is the most important aspect in preparing for the Pac-12 Tournament.

“I think, for us, it’s no bigger than [being ready for the NCAA Tournament],” Miller said. “… just making sure we’re ready coming off of the heels of Saturday and using that in a very positive way with our confidence and going into Las Vegas playing our best basketball, with no pressure on us.”

The Wildcats could play as little as two more games this season if they lost their opening-round games in both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, and as many as nine games if they are crowned national champions. Every time the Wildcats step on the court the rest of this season, it’s do or die.

Senior Kadeem Allen was asked multiple times about rematches with UCLA and Oregon in a press conference on Monday, and Allen reiterated how important Arizona’s Thursday matchup will be.

“We have a game Thursday against either Washington State or Colorado, and we have to win that game to even think about winning the Pac-12 Tournament,” Allen said.

The Wildcats have big goals in mind, and the Pac-12 Tournament can help position them to make a deep run in the tournament. Here’s how it can all shake out:

WORST CASE SCENARIO PREDICTION: No. 4 seed in Midwest Region

Arizona loses to Colorado or Washington State on Thursday night in the quarterfinals. Both teams feature an elite Pac-12 player. The Cougars have Malachi Flynn and the Buffaloes have Derrick White. Miller has already expressed concern about facing the latter.

“They’re 8-3 in their last 11 Pac-12 games, and they have as much experience and size [as anyone],” Miller said. “They have a player, [Derrick] White; it’s been a long time since we played them, but I know he’s an All-Pac-12 player. That’s not an easy game for whoever plays them.”

In this scenario, expect Arizona to be slotted as low as the No. 4 seed, and they can kiss the West bracket goodbye.

BEST CASE SCENARIO PREDICTION: No. 2 seed in West Region

If Arizona is able to make it through the gauntlet of UCLA and Oregon in back-to-back nights, the Wildcats will be the highest seeded team from the Pac-12. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have a tight grip on the No. 1 seed out west, and I believe the committee is reserving the No. 2 slot in the west for the Pac-12 Tournament champion.

MY PREDICTION: No. 3 seed Midwest Region

The Bruins are tough. I expect Arizona will take care of Washington State or Colorado on Thursday night, but in their primetime Friday night matchup with UCLA, I’m leaning toward the Bruins. Newly minted first-team All-American Lonzo Ball has the capability to take UCLA all the way to a national title and will be just too much to handle for the Wildcats.

It’s the second week of March, and there’s no better place to be than in a great college basketball town. Let the madness commence, Tucson.


Follow Christopher Deak on Twitter


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