During Sunday’s Selection Show on CBS, when the announcement came that a sixth-seeded Arizona would face 11th-seed Belmont in the West region’s first round, studio analyst Seth Davis quickly retorted that Belmont would upset the Wildcats.
And he’s not the only one.
Pointing to the Bruins’ strength in outside shooting and Arizona’s lacking defense in that area, the Wildcats have become a popular upset pick nation-wide.
“I don’t really pay attention to it,” said guard Jordin Mayes. “Belmont’s a good team, they in the tournament. We’re a good team, we in the tournament. We just gotta come out there and play hard and step up on the defensive end.”
ESPN, Yahoo Sports, USA Today and CBS Sports are among the major national news organizations with its analysts predicting the Wildcats’ demise.
Like Mayes, Solomon Hill is not worried. The way Hill sees it, those analysts are just doing their job.
“I feel like commentators and various outlets of media, they have their own job to do,” Hill said. “It doesn’t affect anybody on the team, doesn’t affect any way we feel about the game. I think they have a job to do. They do their job. Whatever they say is a part of their profession and it doesn’t affect me anyway or how I play on the court.
“I feel like everyone on our team knows we’re a great team, we’re capable of beating anyone in that field.”
The Wildcats haven’t had very much success against ‘Bruins’ this year, losing to UCLA three times, and Belmont surely won’t be an easy out. These Bruins, the Ohio Valley Conference champions, are among the best shooting teams in the nation. They rank 18th in 3-point percentage (38.6), 13th in 3-pointers made (271, or 8.4 per game).
Their best player is Ian Clark, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, who gets 18.1 points per game and hits 3.1 3-pointers per game (11th in the nation) at 46.3 percent (first).
The Wildcats’ three-point defense leaves much to be desired — they rank 276th in the nation in allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent from long range.
But, still, Hill doesn’t worry about any “upset alert”.
“People are gonna throw out upsets because everybody is there to play and to win,” Hill said. “We do respect Belmont but the fact is we want to go out there and win the game like everyone else. We really don’t pay attention to what people say and all the upset alert stuff. Like I said, someone has to say something about it.”
Ex-Wildcat now the “enemy” for UA
A familiar face will be competing in the same West region as the Wildcats, although odds are they won’t face each other.
Lamont “MoMo” Jones was Arizona’s starting point guard two years ago when the UA went to the Final Four, but transferred to Iona in New York the following year to be closer to his sick grandmother.
The Gaels are the 15 seed and will face No.2 Ohio State in the first round in Dayton, Ohio.
There have only been six 15 seeds to ever upset a two in the history of the NCAA tournament, although two of them came last year (Lehigh and Norfolk State).
Hill hasn’t spoken to his former teammate yet.
“No not really,” Hill said. “He’s the enemy. I haven’t really talked to anybody.”
Jones has developed into one of the top scorers in the nation, partly thanks to a move to off guard after running the point for the UA.
Jones finished third in the nation with 23.0 points per game this year, including four games with 30 or more points.
Wildcats drop two spots in final AP poll
In the Pac-12 tournament, the Wildcats beat Colorado in their first game, but faltered in the second half against UCLA in a semifinals loss. As a result, the UA dropped from No. 18 to No. 21 in the final AP poll of the regular season. While UCLA, who lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game, dropped from 21 to 24. Oregon came in at No. 25.
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.