Arizona Basketball's March Madness resume following early Pac-12 Tournament exits

Luke Walton talks to Lute Olson
Luke Walton talks to Lute Olson / Jeff Gross/GettyImages
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Made Elite Eight despite not appearing in championship game

. 17-1 in Pac-10 (1st). '03. Regular season: 25-2. 2003 Arizona Wildcats. '03. . 2003 Arizona Wildcats. player. 511

The path of this iteration of the Wildcats is what the current group can hope to reach — if not exceed. Widely regarded as one of the better teams in program history, Arizona finished the regular season with just two losses. The No. 2-ranked and No. 1-seeded 'Cats and Lute Olson were treated to a rude awakening in their first game of the Pac-10 Tournament when No. 8 seed UCLA thwarted them 96-89 in overtime to move onto the Semifinals.

They were still (deservingly) treated to a No. 1 seed in the West Region, which the '24 'Cats likely won't, but the skill level differences between a No. 15 and No. 16 seed are negligible. Arizona handily dispatched Vermont in the first round with a resounding 80-51 thumping. The Round of 32 saw Arizona taking on No. 9 seed Gonzaga, which seems to be the path to the Sweet Sixteen again 21 years later. This win didn't come as easily, but Arizona still prevailed 96-95 after double overtime.

Arizona bounced back in a big way and beat No. 5 seed and No. 22-ranked Notre Dame by 18 points in an 89-71 win to move on to Elite Eight, where the run finally ended. The 'Cats fell just 3 points short against No. 2 seed, No. 6-ranked, and eventual NCAA Runner-up Kansas.

Made Sweet Sixteen despite not appearing in championship game

Regular season: 24-6. 2013 Arizona Wildcats. . 2013 Arizona Wildcats. 511. '13. . 12-6 in Pac-12 (T-2nd). '13. player

Arizona's 2023-24 team seems to fall somewhere in between where the 2002-03 team and the 2012-13 team finished. The latter form of the 'Cats finished the regular season ranked at No. 18 and with a 24-6 overall record. They managed to get through the First Round of the Pac-12 Tournament with a 10-point win over No. 5 seed Colorado before No. 1 seed and No. 21-ranked UCLA won by just 2 measly points to knock the 'Cats out of conference contention.

However, Arizona kicked it into another gear once big boy play came around and laid down a pair of double-digit smackdowns to open up March Madness. No. 6 seed and No. 21 ranked Arizona powered through No. 11 seed Belmont with a convincing 17-point win 81-64 in the Round of 64. In the Round of 32, Arizona laid the hammer on another team in the form of a 74-51 beatdown over Harvard.

In the Sweet Sixteen, Arizona was tasked with No. 2 seed and No. 7-ranked Ohio State. Despite the loss, Arizona played the Buckeyes hard and only fell 3 points short in the 73-70 decision. The 'Cats would have to settle for watching No. 9 seed Wichita State upset Ohio State on their miracle Final Four run.

2009 Arizona Wildcats. '09. . Regular season: 19-12. . 9-9 in Pac-10 (T-5th). player. 2009 Arizona Wildcats. '09. 511

This was the Russ Pennell year, and the waters were still choppy in Tucson while Olson was on the tail end of a leave of absence. This team didn't look all too great during conference play, starting 8-5 before dropping four straight and finishing at an even 9-9 to tie for fifth place in the conference. The 'Cats drew No. 23-ranked rival Arizona State led by James Harden in the Quarterfinals round and fell 12 points short in a one-and-done showing.

Despite the disheartening loss, Pennell helped to rally the troops for a respectable tournament run from the No. 12 seed. In the opening-round matchup, the Wildcats stunned No. 5 seed and No. 25-ranked Utah with a reassuring 84-71 win. In the second round, the 'Cats were handed a cakewalk against No. 9 seed Cleveland State and they walked through to the Sweet Sixteen with a 71-57 win.

The Cinderella story Wildcats saw the book abruptly closed on them when they ran into a buzz saw in the form of No. 1 seed Louisville. The Cardinals absolutely trashed Arizona 103-64, but making it through the first two rounds with an interim coach is something to note.

ICYMI. MM. What's next for Arizona Basketball? Wildcats' eyes on March Madness. dark

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