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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona men’s basketball in search of key wins to bolster resume

Tyler Baker
Arizona guard Gabe York (1) rears back to shoot in McKale Center on Thursday, Jan. 28. York is averaging 14.7 points per game this season.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi earns the bulk of his salary during this time of year.

As America’s foremost bracketologist, Lunardi provides weekly and eventually daily NCAA Tournament seeding projections.

In Lunardi’s latest bracket, which came out Monday, he placed Arizona, Kentucky and Duke in the same region.

Most years, those three blue-bloods would snatch up the top seeds of whatever region they were designated.

But 2016 is not like most years.

Instead, Lunardi labeled Kentucky a four-seed, Arizona a five-seed and Duke a six-seed.

Wouldn’t that be a fun region to watch play out?

Across the internet, CBS Sports’ resident bracketologist Jerry Palm listed the UA as a six-seed.

Given Arizona’s overall lackluster resume, those projects seem to fall right into the ballpark of the Wildcats’ likely seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, plenty can change between now and Selection Sunday—approximately a month away—but Arizona would need to go on quite a run to dramatically improve its seed standing.

According to CBS Sports’ RPI Breakdown, Arizona ranks No. 29 nationally in RPI and No. 85 in strength of schedule.

The RPI is a formula which factors in a team’s winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentage and its opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.

It’s an inexact science, sure, but the RPI along with strength of schedule still serve as the main criteria used by the NCAA Selection Committee when assigning seeds.

Arizona’s numbers aren’t bad, per se, but they don’t represent the makeup of a top-seed, either.

Looking further into Arizona’s resume, the Wildcats are 0-2 against opponents with a top-25 RPI and just 1-2 against teams with an RPI in the 26-50 range.

Translation: Arizona is lacking quality wins.

Beating Gonzaga on the road and UNLV at home both appeared to be marquee victories at the time, but neither West Coast program has lived up to preseason expectations—certainly not UNLV, whose head coach was fired in early January.

The Wildcats won’t get much credit for hanging tough with Providence at the DirecTV Wooden Legacy, nor their close losses to UCLA, USC and most recently Oregon.

Fortunately for Arizona, there are still enough opportunities to pick up some resume-bolstering wins.

The first one comes this Sunday, when USC arrives in town.

The Trojans rank No. 15 in the RPI, second in the Pac-12 Conference behind Oregon, who ranks third nationally.

It may be a surprise to see USC rated so highly, but the Trojans played a solid non-conference schedule.

In conference play, they’ve knocked off Arizona in quadruple overtime and swept rival UCLA.

“When you use the words depth [and] parity, a lot of times you’re just talking about USC,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “They’re a team that when you draw them in the NCAA Tournament, you start to watch them on that Sunday night, it won’t be a good feeling.”

If Arizona can beat USC on Sunday, that’ll give the Wildcats one top-25 RPI win to show off to the selection committee.

Two more such wins could come on Arizona’s next road trip, as both Utah and Colorado rank in the RPI top 25, as improbable as that may seem.

With a Rocky Mountain trip, Arizona could add a few fine strokes to its resume before it’s fatefully examined on Selection Sunday.

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter

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