The Arizona Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed. A tricky seed to figure out. Five seeds have been known to bow out early (happens every year) or catch fire on their way to the Final Four (two last season).
Let’s look at why the Wildcats CAN’T make a run (and then dispel the reasons).
1) They are an inexperienced team.
Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg are the only two on the roster with significant playing time from two years ago when they reached the Sweet 16.
These are college kids, not 10+ year veterans in the profession.
2) The guard play isn’t what it has to be this time of the year.
Fogg and MoMo Jones are good not great.
Fogg can light it up one game and disappear the next. He had 20 points against Oregon on March 5 and then scored only nine points in three games at the Pac-10 Tournament.
Same could be said for Jones. He averages just under 10 points a game on the season yet has eight games of 15+ points.
As long as one of these two shows up each game and gives Derrick Williams (more on him in a minute) some help from the outside, opposing teams are going to find themselves scrambling on defense. A guard in March is key — not guards. For the Wildcats sake, just hope the basket doesn’t shrink for both of them on the same night.
3) This isn’t necessarily an issue, but it can become one in a hurry. Williams has fouled out of five games and has had four fouls in another nine. The depth behind him is below average and not something you want to be relying on.
4) In the recent past there have been eight teams seeded fourth of fifth after not making the tournament the previous year. Seven of those eight teams lost in their opening game. The lone team not to — Washington in 2009 — lost the weekend game. History is not on Arizona’s side.
To that I say, so what.
Those are their weaknesses.
Now, let’s look at what the Wildcats DO have.
1) They have the Pac-10 Coach of the Year and a coach who has been successful in March.
Sean Miller’s team knows how to win games. His March Madness record is 6-4. At Xavier he made the Sweet 16 twice.
2) Arizona has Derrick Williams and the other team doesn’t.
Every team making a serious run at the Final Four has a star. A go to player. Someone they can count on in the final minutes of a tight game with everything on the line.
Williams can carry this team through the tournament. He averages 19 points and eight rebounds a game. Six times he put up 25 or more points.
The sophomore led the Wildcats in scoring in 25 of their 34 games. He gets to the foul line more than any player in the country — making 75% of his free throws, which will be crucial.
IF Williams puts up those numbers, commands the ball late in games and shows the country why he is the Pac-10 Player of the Year and an All-American, the Wildcats will be playing for a couple of weeks.
He can also make his presence known on defense too. Earlier this season he preserved a victory over Washington with a block as time expired.
3) And finally, the all-important match-ups.
The Cats start the tournament off against the Memphis Tigers.
This team should not scare you other than that it is a 5-12 game, which always finds the higher seed being the victim of an upset — or two.
Memphis is 0-2 against Top 25 competition. They are 7-7 away from home this season. Three of those wins came in their conference tournament. I see no issues for Arizona in this one.
Unless an upset occurs, the Wildcats will be going against the Texas Longhorns on Sunday. Texas was as high as No. 2 in the country earlier this year. They have been struggling as of late and are definitely beatable, losing four of their last eight (two of those losses against teams that didn’t make the field of 68).
The Sweet 16 very well could bring on a contest against the defending champion Duke Blue Devils. Duke has lost four times this season. All four were on the road. This would be in Anaheim, Calif. Advantage Wildcats.
I like Williams against the Blue Devils front line. Playing Kansas early in the year, Washington’s guards three times and USC’s pressure defense three times should all help the Wildcats be prepared for what the Blue Devils will bring.
I’ll stop there and say no team in the bottom half of the West Region should put fear in the Wildcats.
A run towards Houston seems reasonable, right?
After all, it’s March Madness.
Let the games begin.
What I learned this week…
I’m always up for trying new things. Thanks to my friend Nicole, I learned Cannelloni is basically the Italian version of Enchiladas. I also learned that I like Macaroni Grill’s Roasted Chicken Cannelloni.
Tweet of the week…
From @KevinGArmstrong: Cincy guard just took my pen, wrote his # on paper from my pad, handed to usher to deliver to a female Garden worker. She wasn’t impressed
Gotta love the Big East Tournament.
Suggestion of the week…
Take a look at our future…