Thoughts and musings on the Arizona Wildcats, NCAA tournament
For college basketball fans, this is the best time of the year: March Madness, the mecca of college basketball.
The sixth-seeded Arizona Wildcats will take on 11th-seed Belmont today at 4:20 p.m.
Here are some thoughts and musings on that match-up and the NCAA tournament in general:
THERE ARE SO many Belmont upset picks going around that I wonder if Arizona is the underdog at this point.
Forward Grant Jerrett plays defense against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament on March 14, 2013 in Las Vegas.
AM I THE ONLY ONE who thinks UCLA is way overrated at six? Jordan Adams is a huge loss for the team; it showed against Oregon in the Pac-12 championship. Even with him, UCLA was consistently inconsistent.
YOUR PRESIDENT participated in his annual Barack-etology with ESPN, and he showed no love for Arizona. Or anyone in the Pac-12, for that matter. Mr. Commander-in-Chief picked all five Pac-12 teams to lose in their first game.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ranked all 68 schools by the coolest person who went there. Arizona came in at No. 30 with Kristen Wiig, the former Saturday Night Live star who was an art major at the UA before dropping out for an acting career. “Bridesmaids” was hilarious, but I’m more Gronk-leaning.
I’LL BE IN UTAH for the first time. I hear there are strict alcohol laws up there. So, what does that mean for the media’s hospitality suite? That’s an important NCAA tournament question if I’ve ever heard one. It’ll be in the 40s and rainy all week in Salt Lake, but my friends tell me I’m from New Jersey, so I shouldn’t complain. Here’s me not complaining.
THE WEST REGION is filled with head coach Sean Miller storylines. In addition to the the Arizona Wildcats, there is Miller’s alma mater (No. 8 Pittsburgh), his former boss at Xavier (Ohio State coach Thad Matta) and a former recruit and Arizona player from 2011 (Iona’s Momo Jones).
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT for Kaleb Tarczewski, although it remains to be seen how far into the sky he will reach this year. Still, considering his recent play (7.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 58.8 percent shooting in the last seven games), Arizona has a low post threat that not many have, especially at such a young age. He doesn’t need to be great, just solid, especially against New Mexico’s Alex Kirk in the second round, if Arizona gets there. He might not be great now, but he could be by next year if he keeps developing.
IF ARIZONA MAKES a deep run, don’t be surprised if a freshman is at the center of it. Mark Lyons is hit-or-miss, Solomon Hill is solid and Nick Johnson gets this team going, but if Arizona makes a deep run it will be because Brandon Ashley or Grant Jerrett broke out in a big way. My money’s on Ashley.
HE’S HERE, BABY! Sorry for that — blame Dick Vitale. The longtime announcer will be calling his first-ever Final Four. He seems like a nice guy. That’s all I’ll say.
THE NEXT GEORGE MASON? Predicting that is near impossible. I’m going to try anyway. I’m going with Davidson, a 14-seed facing Marquette in the first round in the East region. It doesn’t have Stephen Curry, but the Davidson Wildcats are the best free throw-shooting team in the nation, went 17-1 in the Southern Conference, shoot the three well (36.9 percent), score 73.7 points per game and have a head coach who’s been there before in Bob McKillop. They also had a tough non-conference slate (Duke, Gonzaga, New Mexico).
MY SEVEN BEST West region players, in no particular order: Kelly Olynyk (Gonazaga), Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Rodney Macgruder (Kansas State), Solomon Hill (Arizona) and Marshall Henderson (Ole Miss).
BEST PLAYER YOU DON’T KNOW? Belmont’s Ian Clark. Arizona fans, be very, very scared. This dude can shoot.
THE BEST ELSEWHERE? Besides the obvious (Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, etc.), I’m especially excited to see what Matthew Dellavedova at Saint Mary’s can do. Miller has called him the best point guard in the country.
AS FOR MOMO JONES, he’s become an effective two-guard for the Iona Gaels. After running the point for two years at the UA, he transferred to Iona (in New York) to be with his sick grandmother. This marks his third-straight NCAA tournament, and he was third in the nation in scoring (23.0 points per game) this year.
THERE ARE OTHER EX-WILDCATS in the tournament. Jeff Withey was a Wildcat for, like, two minutes before transferring to Kansas when Lute Olson resigned. Now he’s the Jayhawks’ starting center, and one of the best in the country — a fun case of “What if” to be had there. Also, there’s Daniel Bejarano, who was at the UA in 2011 then left for Colorado State, where he is the sixth man.
FINALLY, Arizona might make it to the Final Four, but it also might lose in the first round. Hope that helps your bracket.