The bad news? It appears the NCAA Tournament Committee lacks respect for the West once again, and perhaps the powers that be–the majority of which reside on the east coast–don’t stay up late enough to enjoy the talent of Pac-12 hoops. Save Colorado, not one Pac-12 team (#6 Arizona, #6 UCLA, #10 Colorado, #12 Oregon and #12 California) got as high of a seed as anticipated. Pac-12 Tournament Champion Oregon got the shortest end of the stick and Colorado is somewhat of a surprise.
The good news? The Pac-12 is well represented with five teams this year, and because they were not given the respect they deserve, have a really good opportunity to shake things up this month and upset teams that the Committee had more time to watch.
Arizona got a #6 seed (the bracket matrix had them at #4), but got awarded in some ways by getting placed in the Western Region with the fourth overall #1 seed Gonzaga. Let’s take a look at the two teams they will potentially face this week:
#10 Belmont (24-6)
Quality Wins: Middle Tennessee (RPI 29)
Best Player: G Ian Clark (18.1 PPG) and G Kerron Johnson (14 PPG and 5 APG).
Strengths: Guard play and shooting
#3 New Mexico (29-5)
Quality Wins: Colorado State (twice), UNLV (twice), San Diego State (twice), Boise State (twice), UConn, Cincinnati, New Mexico State
Best Player: G Kendall Williams (13.5 PPG, 5APG)
Strengths: Well-rounded with lots of depth. Spreads the ball well
Weaknesses: Points per game and field goal percentage
In short, Arizona will have to play their best basketball to avoid an early exit, but that would be the case regardless–this is March Madness after all. Belmont’s guard play and Arizona’s struggle against defending good guards is troubling, but Arizona has played tougher competition and their size could create problems for the Bruins.
New Mexico could be one of the toughest match-ups for the Wildcats this entire season. The Lobos have a very good resume, match up well against Arizona in size and in depth. Where Arizona’s game against San Diego State came down to the wire, New Mexico has beaten the Aztecs twice by double digits.