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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: As March looms, UA still has potential to make deep tourney run

Sydney Richardson
Arizona forward Ryan Anderson (12) looks to pass the ball against Cal on Saturday, Jan. 23. As March Madness looms, Arizona still has a fighting chance to make a deep run in the tournament.

After Arizona men’s basketball fell to Utah 70-64 Saturday, Arizona head coach Sean Miller delivered a plain assessment.

“We’re not a great team,” Miller said.

Few would argue with Miller, especially with the Wildcats coming off a pair of close losses to the Rocky Mountain schools.

Arizona now stands at 22-7 overall with a 10-6 record in Pac-12 Conference play. According to the latest NCAA Tournament projections, the Wildcats are slated for a five or six seed, depending on the diagnosis of your go-to bracketologist.

With only two games remaining on the regular season schedule—a pair of home matchups against the underachieving California and Stanford—the Wildcats don’t have much of a chance to bolster their postseason resume before competing in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Even if Arizona was to win the conference tournament, it still wouldn’t do much to budge the Wildcat’s tournament seeding. Not with an RPI in the 20s and a strength of schedule in the mid-80s.

So that part is settled.

This Wildcats won’t be in contention for a top national seed, nor will they be the office pool favorite to reach the Final Four.

But in this college basketball season of chaos, does it take a great team to potentially make a deep run in the Big Dance?

Probably not.

Just this past weekend, 10 top-25 teams lost, with five of those losses coming against non-ranked opponents. Duke, Maryland, Oklahoma, Iowa and Kentucky were just some of the victims.

When No. 5 Xavier fell to Seton Hall on Sunday, it ensured that every major conference team would enter March with at least four losses.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, since the NCAA Tournament began seeding in 1979, only twice have all four top seeds had four losses.

This isn’t a normal year.

Amid all the parity, it’s not unreasonable to think Arizona can carve a hole in its region and make it to the second weekend of the tournament, if not farther.

Despite seven losses, the Wildcats were competitive in each of those defeats. Most recently, Arizona found itself in striking distance against Colorado and Utah before folding in the final minute.

A key turnover and missed 3-pointer haunted the Wildcats in their loss to Colorado. Against Utah, Arizona could not come up with a key rebound in the final minute, leading to a dagger 3-pointer by the Utes’ Brandon Taylor.

“We have the ability to be right there, especially on an away court,” Miller said after the Utah loss. “You have to make a play.”

In March, those plays separate who advances and who goes home.

While Arizona cannot overcome some of its deficiencies, if the Wildcats can put themselves in a position to win down the stretch, it might be that it takes this year to catch a hot streak in March.

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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