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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona should be a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance

Tyler Baker

Arizona forward Brandon Ashley cracks a smile during the post game press conference after Arizona’s 80-52 win against Oregon in Pac-12 Tournament championship in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on Saturday night.

LAS VEGAS — Arizona men’s basketball doesn’t seem to care, but they’ve earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

The No. 5 ranked Wildcats (31-3) dominated the Pac-12 Tournament, winning the championship game by 28 points over second seeded Oregon. Pac-12 Player of the Year and UO guard Joseph Young scored 19 points, but it didn’t even matter.

The last time the champion in the regular season won the tournament was 2008. Arizona outscored their opponents by 56 points and two of those squads were either tournament teams or close.

With the three wins, the Wildcats have won 11 games in a row and 17 of their last 18.

“We’re elevating at the right time,” Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “We’re hitting our stride and this is where teams either fall off or they stay the same — or [get] better. We’re that team that’s getting better.”

Other than No. 1 Kentucky, the navy Wildcats are the hottest team in the country.

When the NCAA tournament field is unveiled tomorrow, the UA should be a No. 1 seed.

“We can’t control that,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I know we’re in the conversation — we talked about that in the locker room. There’s a committee and some people that have been tracking this as far back as November.”

Arizona’s RPI is No. 7 and the Wildcats have three bad losses, but they are 3-0 against the RPI top 25, 9-0 against the top 50 and 17-0 against the top 100. They’re undefeated against good teams, so why should losing to mediocre teams matter?

The difference between a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed, especially if the Wildcats stay in the West Region, may not matter much, but they’ve earned a spot on the top line.

“Whether we get one or not — we were a one seed last year — I know we’re going to get a very good seed and we’re excited about playing,” Miller said. “I think the more important part for us is how well are we going to continue to play, can we build off of this tournament, that’s our focus.”

Virginia is No. 6 in the RPI, but only 5-3 against the RPI top 25, 8-3 against the top 50 and 14-3 against the top 100. Most importantly, the Cavaliers have lost two of their last three and are struggling at the most important time of the season.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats are rolling. They had three players on the Pac-12 All-Tournament team, led by the most outstanding player in Brandon Ashley.

“It’s just the right time and it seems like everybody is clicking and we’re all starting to develop really great chemistry,” Ashley said.

UVa didn’t even make it to their title game.

The same goes for Duke, who are fourth in the RPI. Arizona has performed better against top teams than the Blue Devils, who are 7-2 against the RPI top 25, 11-3 against the top 50 and 17-4 against the top 100. Duke failed to even reach the ACC title game.

“Seeding is just a number,” Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski said. “Whatever team we play, whoever it is, we’re going to play our hearts out — and if we can win, it would be neat. One, two, three, four, it doesn’t matter.”

On the record, Arizona clearly doesn’t care what seed they get but giving a top seed to a team that’s limping into the postseason or hasn’t done nearly as well against good teams as the Wildcats have, is pretty much a waste.

Wisconsin is the potential threat to an Arizona one seed that actually made their tournament’s championship game, good for them. They are also 11-1 in their last 12 games like the Wildcats, but lost last in late February, sooner than Arizona.

Plus the Badgers also have fewer quality wins than the Wildcats and more losses to good teams. Wisconsin’s resume is 3-2 vs. the RPI top 25, 8-2 against the top 50 and 18-2 against the top 100.

Assuming they beat Michigan State (and that’s a lot to assume considering how Virginia and Duke fared in the postseason), they’ll have more wins against the top-25 than Arizona, but still those two losses.

Arizona gets punished for bad losses (though they are all in the top 133, so it’s not like they lost North Central State or the Little Sisters of the Poor) but those were on the road and against teams that won’t be in the Big Dance. That doesn’t make any sense, that’s like saying someone should lose at Blackjack because they lost at poker.

Kentucky and Villanova should also get No. 1 seeds, they’re both 12-0 in their last 12 games like Arizona, but the idea that the UA should be below teams like Wisconsin and especially Virginia and Duke is crazy.

If Arizona gets a one, they’re poised to validate that choice and if they get a two seed then they’re ready to prove the committee wrong.

“The guys that pick those seeds are, who ever make that up, they’re great smart guys, so we’ll let them handle that and we’ll just play basketball,” Hollis-Jefferson said.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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