Record: 25-8 (12-6)
NCAA TOURNAMENT SEED: 6 (South)
How they got to the Big Dance
Arizona went into Pac-12 conference play with a 12-1 record—its only loss up to that point was to Providence. That also included a win on the road against a then ranked No. 13 Gonzaga. Arizona’s 12-6 conference record would give it the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. During conference play, the Wildcats lost to UCLA and split games with USC and California. They also lost at home to a then ranked No. 23 Oregon and on the road against No. 22 Utah. In the tournament, they won a close battle with Colorado 82-78 before being eliminated in the semifinals in overtime to the top seeded Oregon Ducks by a score of 95-89.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
Arizona may not be as successful as in recent years, but they have plenty of experience in the tournament. In the past two years, as a No, 1 and a No. 2 seed, they’ve lost in the Elite Eight. Head coach Sean Miller will know how to prepare his team for the Big Dance. Even though they are not going to be a top seed this year, they still know how to score the ball. They rank 16th in the nation in scoring, averaging 81.2 points per game. They score these points on a solid 48.2 percent shooting from the floor. Arizona also has the ability to shoot the long ball. The Wildcats make nearly 40 percent of their shots from behind the three-point arc. They also know how to get to the line and make their free throws. The Wildcats rank in the top 10 in free throws made per game with 18.6. This will help down the stretch of games. Along with their scoring, Arizona is also a top-20 rebounding team in the country.
Why they aren’t a legitimate contender
Arizona was much better in the past two years than they are in 2016. In 2014, the Wildcats went into the tournament as a No.1 seed and in 2015, they were a No. 2 seed. In both tournaments, they were eliminated in the Elite 8. So based on their team’s recent history, they will be making an even earlier exit this year. It’s evident that the Wildcats’ have regressed based on their conference play this year. They went 1-4 against the top three seeds in the Pac-12, including tournament play. They are not that dominant Wildcats team we’ve seen in prior years. The Wildcats are only forcing 4.9 steals per game, and thus, not getting out in transition that well. Arizona may be seeing a very early exit in this year’s tournament if they can’t force more turnovers.
Player to watch- F Ryan Anderson
Arizona’s best overall player has to be the 6-foot-9 senior Ryan Anderson. He averages a double-double for the Wildcats, with 15.5 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He shoots a solid 54.7 percent from the field and sinks 74.5 percent from the free throw line. The Wildcats fare very well in games when he can get to the free throw line. In the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals, Anderson sunk 9 of 10 from the charity strike. In that game, he scored 17 points with 11 rebounds. Arizona’s losses tend to be games where Anderson’s numbers are lower, so look to see if the Wildcats make it a point of emphasis to get him going from tip-off.
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