Arizona Basketball's history in the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen

Arizona V Kansas
Arizona V Kansas / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages
2 of 5

First appearance/loss: 1951 vs. Kansas State

1951 was the first year that the NCAA Tournament expanded from eight teams to 16, and it was also the first year that Arizona earned a tournament bid. The Fred Enke-led Wildcats went 24-4 (15-1 in Border Conference) in the 1950-51 regular season including a 62-55 win over fellow tournament team San Jose State.

However, Arizona entered the Sweet Sixteen fresh off a 74-68 loss to Dayton in the NIT and without any positive momentum. It didn't help that Arizona drew a rolling Kansas State team that made it all the way to the Championship Game. Arizona fell just 2 points short in a 61-59 heartbreaking failed comeback attempt, ending the first tournament run just as quickly as it started.

First win: 1976 vs. UNLV

It took 25 years for Arizona to return to the NCAA Tournament, and it was in 1976 — the second year of the 32-team field — that Arizona first broke past the Sweet Sixteen. The Wildcats were coached by Fred Snowden at this point and finished the regular season 20-9 (10-3 in WAC). The first stop in the postseason was Tempe, where they took down Georgetown 83-76 to win the first NCAA Tournament game in program history.

Standing in Arizona's way of victory in the Sweet Sixteen was UNLV, who had an unbelievable 28-1 record in the regular season and were ranked No. 3 in the Final AP Poll. Despite facing a team with eight more wins, the Wildcats stunned the rising powerhouse program with a 114-109 victory in overtime. Herman Harris posted 31 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists, while Bob Elliott (20 points, 12 rebounds), Jim Rappis (24 points, 12 assists), and Phil Taylor (18 points, 15 rebounds) all recorded double-doubles to set the stage for Arizona's first showing in the Elite Eight.