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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

NCAA Tournament seeding up in the air as Arizona heads to Vegas

Arizona+guard+Gabe+York+%281%29+drives+the+ball+past+Colorado+on+Feb.+24+at+the+Coors+Events+Center+in+Boulder%2C+Colorado.+Arizona+fell+to+Colorado+75-72.
Nigel Amstock
Arizona guard Gabe York (1) drives the ball past Colorado on Feb. 24 at the Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colorado. Arizona fell to Colorado 75-72.

Sean Miller and his team will travel to the Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas with a different setup than the past two seasons. After two straight regular season championships, the Wildcats will enter this year’s tournament as a No. 4 seed and await the winner of Colorado and Washington State for their first game Thursday afternoon.

The Wildcats could end up playing only teams that have beat them this season in Las Vegas. If they win on Thursday, they would likely play Oregon in the semifinals, and then California, Utah or one of the Los Angeles schools in the possible championship game.  

In terms of RPI, which showcases a team’s strength of schedule, Arizona is ranked by ESPN at No. 26. Oregon is fourth, Utah is ninth and California is 15th. When selection Sunday rolls around, wins over these teams will help push the Wildcats toward a higher seed. 

“I like to think that we’re in the tournament based on how we’ve performed through 31 games,” Miller said. “Where we’re seeded though could vary dramatically.”

Arizona will also need some help around the country in other conference tournaments. In a season ripe with upsets week in and out, the Wildcats could benefit from a few more. Winning the Pac-12 Tournament coupled with other teams losing early would make the possibility of moving up stronger.

The Wildcats will need to ride the momentum from a poetic final week of the regular season. Arizona came back from an eight-point deficit to defeat Cal in the final minutes on the back of Gabe York, and blew out Stanford on a complete game effort from everyone, but especially the seniors. 

“Our team played with great confidence, and that’s something you want to see in March,” Miller said about Saturday’s win over the Cardinal. “A team that believes in what they’re doing and believes in each other.”

We caught a glimpse of what this team can do once everything clicks and continuing that stretch is key in the postseason.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if we can carry that confidence and belief into Las Vegas,” Miller said.

While Arizona would undoubtedly benefit from a strong weekend in Las Vegas, the pressure for this year’s Wildcats may not be as heavy as it has been in the past. 

Large expectations have been rightfully placed on the Wildcats because of the history and success of the program. A championship-or-bust mentality is a good one to have, but it can also create added pressure to an already grueling season. 

“I do think sometimes that if you enter the conference tournament as the conference regular season champion, and you’ve had your way like we’ve had the past couple of years, you try to rev that engine up. But it’s not as easy to do,” Miller said.

Not all eyes are on Arizona this year, as Oregon became the new regular season champion. The expectations are still high, but Arizona might be able to fly under the radar a little more this postseason because of a lower seeding. 

“If you’re not the conference champion like we are this year, you may potentially play a team that just beat you in a crucial game,” Miller said. “I think you have the right mindset going in there to do a better job against them than we just did.”

This could be good for a team who did not quite reach expectations during the regular season. The Wildcats didn’t have a bad season by any means, but rather let a few games get away. They have a new goal and a new championship set in their minds as they head toward the weekend.

But for now, it’s March. Let the madness begin. 


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter


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