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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Will the Wildcats sneak into the NCAAs?

    Roman Veytsmanassistant sports editor
    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    Pro: UA deserves super seed

    By now, Arizona’s chances of missing the NCAA tournament are about as good as the rap career of Kevin Federline, or K-Fed, taking off. Arizona head coach Lute Olson’s job is no longer in jeopardy and Third Street can be safely renamed 22 NCAA-Tournament-Appearances-In-A-Row Drive.

    With that said, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty details of seeding the tournament teams, not an enviable task considering Dick Vitale will be up in arms over not having 80 teams, including the entire ACC, competing at the Big Dance.

    However, many Web sites, including www.ESPN.com, have already begun the debate, seeding the Wildcats No. 11 in the latest update of “”Bracketology,”” awaiting a matchup with the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners in Auburn Hills, Mich.

    Granted, Arizona has 10 losses, but a No. 11 seed is absolutely absurd. A No. 7 seed, on the other hand, seems a lot more reasonable, considering the circumstances.

    Let’s assume Arizona sweeps its last three home games, not a crazy assumption considering Arizona is 10-1 at home, with the only loss going to No. 19 UCLA. Then the Wildcats win their first-round Pacific 10 Tournament game and lose in the second round to either Washington or UCLA, not so uncommon since Arizona lost to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament the last two seasons and to UCLA the year before that.

    That puts Arizona at 11 losses. Although the super secretive NCAA

    Selection Committee doesn’t release official RPI standings, it has made it clear the RPI rankings and strength of schedule are extremely important.

    The Wildcats sport an impressive tournament resume with a No. 18 RPI ranking and a No. 3 strength of schedule, according to www.NCAA.org‘s RPI rankings.

    Arizona has played neutral site games against Connecticut (No. 4), Michigan State (No. 10) and Kansas (No. 38), as well as road games at UCLA (No. 11), North Carolina (No. 23), Washington (No. 39), California (No. 54) and Houston (No. 59). Surprisingly, even teams like Western Kentucky (20-5, No. 48 RPI) and Virginia (13-10, No. 53 RPI) receive a lot of respect from the committee.

    In fact, a 16-14 Georgia team in 2001 received a No. 8 seed based on its No. 1 strength of schedule. That team went 3-7 in its last 10 games and lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

    The Wildcats are only two spots behind that team in schedule strength and have four fewer losses currently. The committee has spoken.

    “”Bracketology”” has not spoken yet, though. Chief bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Marquette ranked No. 6 although that team has a No. 35 RPI and No. 31 strength of schedule. The Golden Eagles are 2-6 on the road.

    If scheduling is so important, let’s compare the nonconference games that teams have control over. Arizona has not played anyone in the nonconference schedule lower than No. 146 NAU – possibly the Big Sky Conference’s tournament representative this year – which means the Wildcats haven’t played anyone in the lower half of

    Division I.

    Meanwhile, Marquette has played a ton of cupcakes, seven teams ranked lower than NAU, including No. 284 Oakland and Division II Lewis. That’s eight wins the Wildcats could have put on their schedule, but they decided, as always, to schedule tough.

    The Pac-10’s ineptitude has hurt Arizona, especially losses at woeful Oregon (No. 172) and Oregon State (No. 186), but Marquette has benefited from playing in the rough-and-tumble Big East.

    In 2000, former Cincinnati forward Kenyon Martin injured his knee and the Bearcats surrendered its No. 1 seed.

    Vice versa, the addition of senior guard Chris Rodgers late in the season should give the Wildcats a boost. And if freshman guard J.P. Prince can win his personal version of “”Survivor”” and get back into the rotation, he should give Arizona a boost in its seeding.

    When it all boils down, the committee’s job is in essence to avoid upsets, even if they are one of the best things about the tournament. They have to choose which team is better for each seed.

    If they honestly think that George Mason and Wichita State are better than Arizona, as each are currently listed as a No. 7 seed in Bracketology, K-Fed could be hitting the charts at No. 1 before you know it.

    Con: Nobody likes to be single

    When my editor asked me to write about the Arizona men’s basketball seed in the upcoming tournament, I had one simple question – the National Invitation Tournament or the NCAA?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m on the bandwagon that thinks this team will still make the Big Dance, but we can’t count our chickens before they hatch.

    So after I make it apparent that I do still think the Wildcats have a lot of work to do before you can expect them to be booking flights, I believe that the team will land a No. 10 seed in the tournament come March.

    To think that Arizona – a team that has looked like a potential champion at times and a first-round NIT loser at others – has a shot at being a first-round favorite is absurd for a few reasons.

    First, you can’t expect the third- (or even fourth-) best team in the Pacific 10 Conference to be better than a No. 9 seed.

    For the power conferences, the Pac-10 is the worst by far this year, with teams like ASU and Oregon State that would be better suited playing against my undefeated intramural basketball team.

    If you look at the Pac-10, UCLA is the only team that has a chance at making a Sweet 16 run.

    You might argue that California could do it, or even Washington if the Huskies start making everything from outside, but you can’t figure our Wildcats can do it. We have too many holes.

    The argument for a better seed could fall with our impressive RPI and strength of schedule that seem to weigh more to the committee than actual wins and losses.

    While we have a No. 17 RPI and No. 4 strength of schedule, we are still just 9-6 in a weak conference with only one significant win over a top-tier team.

    If the season ended today, we would have a win over No. 17 Washington and No. 16 ranked Kansas, who at the time of the Arizona victory looked like the aliens in “”Space Jam”” before taking all the NBA personalities’ hoop skills.

    ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who has a better record picking the NCAA bracket than Brad Pitt would have at speed dating, has Lute Olson’s squad at a No. 11 seed but rising.

    To keep rising, Arizona has to take care of business before the Pac-10 tournament starts.

    Losing to either ASU or Washington State at home will hurt our RPI, but a win against Washington will again bump it up.

    The Wildcats need the victory against Washington for another top-50 victory, but securing wins against the Sun Devils and Cougars is more important in saving face with the committee.

    Two losses out of our last three games would almost force Arizona to get to the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament just so that the quality wins mount even higher.

    With the inconsistent play of the Wildcats and the inability to still find someone to hit a jumper from beyond the arc, it might be a moot point to be arguing what seed we receive.

    Until Arizona’s name is up on the board on Selection Sunday, we might still need to focus on just getting a dancing partner.

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