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The Daily Wildcat


Roundtable: How far will the Arizona men’s basketball team go in the NCAA Tournament

Ryan Wohl

The Arizona men’s basketball team punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament after defeating UCLA in the 2021-22 Pac-12 Tournament Championship on March 12. 

With both the Arizona men’s and women’s basketball teams making the NCAA Tournament, the Daily Wildcat Sports Desk got together and predicted how the teams would do in the tournament, which starts on Friday, March 18. We will start with predictions for the men’s team. 

Ryan Wohl: Win the National Championship 

Throughout this season everything has not gone according to plan. The team’s starting power forward Azuolas Tubelis injured his ankle and missed some time but allowed the Wildcats to learn to win in different ways. Then, Kerr Kriisa, the heart and soul of the team, injured his ankle and was forced to sit out the final two games of the Pac-12 Tournament. After beating UCLA twice in the final two months of the season, this team proved they are the best team in the country, and it will take a battle to defeat this group in a 40-minute contest. I believe this team will beat head coach Tommy Lloyd’s former boss Mark Few and Gonzaga University in the National Championship to end their 25-year championship drought. 

Asher Bookspan: Win the National Championship 

I think the Arizona men’s team can win it all this year. I have seen many Arizona teams in my lifetime that I thought had the potential to win the tournament but none like this team. Even without Kerr Kriisa, who is dealing with a sprained ankle, Justin Kier showed he is more than ready to lead the team with the help of Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko, Dalen Terry, Azuolas Tubelis and the rest of the team. They boast the best record in the country at 31-3 in head coach Tommy Lloyd’s first year and look primed to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I have them beating Gonzaga in the title game to win the school’s first championship since 1997. 

Ari Koslow: Win the National Championship 

I truly believe this is the Wildcats’ year. When looking strictly at the top-8 in the rotation (with Kerr Kriisa healthy), I believe Arizona has the best rotation in the country. Oumar Ballo, Justin Kier and Pelle Larsson can easily be starters on arguably any team in the country. I have Arizona defeating the University of Tennessee in the Elite Eight to win the South Region, the University of Iowa in the Final Four and Gonzaga in the National Championship. 

Jake Faigus: Runner-up in the National Championship 

The men’s team comes into the tournament riding the momentum of winning the Pac-12 Championship. There is an argument that Arizona is the best team in the country right now, even over Gonzaga. I see the Wildcats beating the winner of Wright State University and Bryant University and the winner of Seton Hall University and Texas Christian University. If chalk holds, Arizona will get a rematch with the University of Illinois that I think they’ll win. I also think they’ll beat Villanova University to get to their first Final Four in 21 years. I think Arizona will beat Auburn University in the Final Four and set up a game against Gonzaga in the National Championship. A student vs. master matchup will happen between Mark Few and Tommy Lloyd. Mark Few will have the coaching advantage and will be the difference in winning the National Championship. Arizona will finish as the runner-up and set the stage for Tommy Lloyd to have an amazing career in Tucson going forward.

RELATED: Arizona men’s basketball notebook: Arizona draws the No.1 seed, and Kriisa is nearing a return 

Delaney Penn: Win the National Championship 

As a University of Arizona student, I feel as though I have to support our school. So in my bracket, I put them going all the way and winning the whole thing. They are the first seed in the South and I think that because they had their first taste of winning this year, they are going to be hungry for more. With such a strong roster that includes the talents of Dalen Terry, Christian Koloko and offensive facilitator Bennedict Mathurin, we will be coming in hot. In the West, I have Texas Tech University going to the Final Four. I had them pretty far in my bracket last year and really would like an upset of them beating Gonzaga. For fun, I put Purdue University in the Final Four representing the East because I almost went there and I have family that goes there. Then I put the University of Wisconsin-Madison down to represent the Midwest. I have Purdue playing Arizona in the National Championship with a final score of 64-58 Arizona. It will be an exciting tournament, and I look forward to watching Arizona take home the win. 

CJ Lala: Elite Eight

The Arizona men’s basketball team was able to win the PAC-12 Tournament and the regular season titles on their way to a No. 1 seed in the South region. Their region is filled with teams they faced throughout the regular season: Tennessee, Illinois and the University of Michigan. They went 2-1 in these games. The familiarity will help head coach Tommy Lloyd’s game plan for these teams. I expect the Wildcats will be able to defeat Illinois in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona will match up with Villanova in the Elite Eight. Villanova is a very experienced team and will make it hard for Arizona to score. The experience in these tough tournament matchups favors Villanova head coach Jay Wright over Lloyd and Villanova will advance to the Final Four. 

Aidan Wohl: Win the National Championship 

After a dominant performance and a championship title win in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Arizona men’s basketball team looks to continue their hot streak going into the NCAA Tournament. They are a No. 1 seed after a staggering 31-3 regular-season outing. They are set to play the winner of the Wright State and Bryant game and are poised to win that game easily, as they have the better team overall. After that, they will play the winner of the TCU and Seton Hall. 

I believe that the Wildcats have the depth to beat either team with starting point guard Kerr Kriisa coming back. This will be a help to their shooting and take the pressure off the backups when facing tougher teams down the road. If they win this game, they will most likely face Illinois. 

They should win this game as big men Azoulas Tubelis and Christian Koloko should be enough to stop Illinois’s star-studded big man Kofi Cockburn. Past the Sweet Sixteen, it is too early to tell who will be facing who, but teams such as Villanova and Auburn are definitely teams that match up to Arizona skill-wise and will be interesting to see how the team’s momentum carries on in a potential run at the championship.

Jayson Dayee: Final Four 

In this year’s tournament, I believe the Arizona men’s basketball team will win the National Championship. This men’s team may be one of the most complete teams Arizona has had since 2001 when they made the Final Four. The men’s team is led by Bennedict Mathurin, who’s leading the team in scoring at 17.4 ppg. They also have one of the best defensive players in all of college basketball in Christian Koloko. This team has already won the regular-season championship and then followed it up with winning the Pac-12 Championship. Now they sit as the No. 1 seed in the South with a record of 31-3 which has been five years since this team won at least 30 games. The consistent level of excellent play through the season gives me a reason to believe this team will at least return to the Final Four, but they have the talent to win it all and bring a second National Championship to Arizona.

Aidan Alperstein: Runner-up in the National Championship 

Arizona’s men’s team should have no trouble in the opening weekend despite a potential matchup against TCU and star point guard Mike Miles Jr. The Midwest region consists of many talented programs, but the only one that can match up with Arizona is Rick Barnes’ Tennessee Volunteers. Arizona should easily squeeze out this victory at the end of the day. The balance of this team from top to bottom should send the Wildcats to New Orleans and a date with the Gonzaga Bulldogs for a National Championship. Arizona’s talented bench will be the difference-maker in this tournament. 

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