What's next for Arizona Basketball? Wildcats' eyes on March Madness

The season isn't over yet for the Wildcats, and it's gotten more common recently to turn the chip on your shoulder into a National Championship.
Mar 15, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) looks for a call against
Mar 15, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) looks for a call against / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6-ranked and No. 1 seed Arizona Basketball's unceremonious exit from the 2024 Pac-12 Tournament at the hands of No. 4 seed Oregon was disappointing. However, the season still isn't over and there's another tournament ahead: the NCAA Tournament.

March Madness matters more than bragging rights for a conference that's on its way to a full-blown funeral in the next calendar year. Arizona secured the regular-season title, and —even though it doesn't feel as important as the Pac-12 Tournament title — the selection committee will be looking at the bulk of the season when it comes to final seeding.

How does this bode for March?

Looking back at the NCAA Tournament Champions, an interesting trend emerges: many don't win their conferences. Even as recently as last season, 2022-23 national champion UConn fell short against Marquette in just the second round of the Big East Tournament. Two years ago, a similar semifinal exit befell eventual 2020-21 national champion Baylor. The college basketball world saw early conference tournament exits from national champions Virginia in 2018-19, North Carolina in 2016-17, Villanova in 2015-16, and Duke in 2014-15, among others.

2021-22 Kansas pulled off the triple crown, winning the Big 12 in the regular season, the Big 12 Tournament, and the National Championship. On the other hand, though, 2013-14 UConn didn't win the Big East in the regular season or the Big East Tournament before going on their National Championship run.

All this is to say that the season isn't over yet, and it's more common in recent years to take the chip on your shoulder all the way to a National Championship.

Can Arizona be trusted?

In short — possibly?

The team has some lingering questions. Which version of Kylan Boswell will show up in Salt Lake City? Will it be the ice-cold Boswell who only notched 4 points on 1-6 shooting and 0-3 from distance, or the white-hot player who dropped 19 points and four assists? What's been going on with Caleb Love, and why has he been disappearing from games? These are all issues that head coach Tommy Lloyd will need to address in the days leading up to the tipoff of March Madness.

However, Arizona is 18-0 after losses in the Lloyd era, and there's no reason that roll should stop in the NCAA Round of 64. It's safe to call last season's stunning loss to No. 15 seed Princeton a fluke, and the 'Cats should roll through whichever No. 15 seed they're allotted. This team can run the table if they're firing on all cylinders, and the value of having seven or eight guys that can be trusted on the court in big-time situations cannot be overstated. Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis are simply extensions of the starting lineup, and Motiejus Krivas will get better the more he plays.

Though it may feel like a long shot for Arizona to win the big dance, it's not out of the question. After getting banged up in last year's tournament, having a few extra days to rest and recover may not be the worst thing in the world. As Lenny Kravitz said, "it ain't over 'til it's over".

History. History. Arizona wins first Pac-12 Tournament in program history. dark

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