Arizona Wildcats earn No. 1 seed in the West Region
Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller said the Wildcats had a good feeling that they would be the No. 1 seed in the West Region, but that they were nonetheless excited to see it confirmed on TV.
No. 1 seed Arizona (30-4) will open the NCAA tournament with 16 seed Weber State (19-11) at 11:10 a.m. PST in San Diego on TNT.
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Sean Miller said a No. 1 seed is a “special reward.”
“We all do this for the opportunity to be special in March and here we are,” Miller said. “Now is our opportunity.”
Freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson celebrates against Colorado last week in Las Vegas in front of a throng of Arizona supporters. The Wildcats earned the No. 1 seed in the West Region in the NCAA tournament and are expected to play in front of pro-UA crowds again.
This is Arizona’s 31st appearance in the NCAA tournament and sixth as a No. 1 seed. The UA is 48-29 in the NCAA tournament and 13-5 as a No. 1 seed. Top seeds are undefeated all-time against 16 seeds.
Sean Miller has not lost in the NCAA tournament to a lower seed.
(1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State
When: Friday, 11:10 a.m. MST/PDT
“I sure hope that streak continues,” Sean Miller said. “I think sometimes you can make too much of what’s happened in the past, you just got to stay in the present.”
Weber State is the Big Sky Conference champions, the league that NAU hails from. WSU went 1-1 against the Lumberjacks this past year, who the UA beat 77-44 in December.
“We have to focus on the task at hand,” Sean Miller said. “We have a regular season champion, a tournament champion, someone who has been in the NCAA tournament before.”
Sean Miller said his brother, Dayton head coach Archie Miller, faced the WSU Wildcats last season and “raved” about how Weber State executed and how well coached they were.
Since they are in the West Region, Arizona’s road to the Final Four runs through San Diego in the first weekend and Anaheim, Calif. in the second weekend if they make it that far.
There are 5,859 UA alumni in the San Diego area and 9,985 in the Los Angeles area, said UA Alumni Association records manager Kathy Adkins.
Sean Miller has praised the UA fans all year and said he is excited at the prospect of playing before a lot of them in Southern California.
“We bring the best fans in the country,” Sean Miller said. “In Las Vegas, in my mind, the most disappointing part of losing the championship game is that we had so many fans that traveled so well that they deserved to stick around and see us hold the trophy.”
Arizona’s 75-71 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament championship game did not drop the Wildcats from a No. 1 seed.
Sean Miller said he thinks the title game will help them.
“Everything that’s happened in Vegas will only empower us,” Sean Miller said. “That game in and of itself will help us prepare for what’s to come because of the high level it was played at.”
Six teams from the Pac-12 made the tournament: UA, UCLA, Oregon, ASU, Colorado and Stanford. With Cal and Utah making the NIT, that means eight of the Pac-12 teams made a post season tournament.
“Our conference was terrific,” Sean Miller said. “That’s also what we have to feel good about entering the tournament, that we’ve played so many teams that are seeded as part of the NCAA tournament.”
UCLA is the four seed in the South Region and will play in San Diego in the other bracket in Southern California in the first weekend. They wouldn’t play Arizona until the national championship game.
Sean Miller said he liked Arizona’s Friday/Sunday schedule instead of the Thursday/Saturday alternative because the Wildcats played three games in three days in Las Vegas in the Pac-12 tournament last week. It gives Arizona another day of rest.
In the West Region, Wisconsin (26-7) is the two seed, Creighton (26-7) is the three seed and San Diego State (29-4) is the four seed. Arizona beat SDSU 69-60 in San Diego in November.
Sean Miller said he doesn’t know who is the West bracket, only who else is playing in San Diego.
“I think it’s nice that UCLA’s there as well, representing the Pac-12, it should be a fun atmosphere,” Sean Miller said, “but if you focus on anyone else, it’s over.”
Sean Miller downplayed TV analysts picking the UA to be upset.
“Last year most people thought we were going to lose to Belmont,” Sean Miller said. “When I was at Xavier, they thought we were located in Louisiana. It doesn’t matter, the bottom line is what is we just win, it’s not about talking, it’s not about predicting.”
Sean Miller said no one holds pundits to their predictions, that “it’s an awesome job.”
“You just kind of do it,” Sean Miller said. “If you’re right, great, if you’re not ‘who cares?’ you just do it again.”
Sean Miller said any talk that the West Region is the weakest is pointless.
“It can change quickly in one game,” Sean Miller said. “It changes dramatically in the first weekend.”
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520