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College hoops insider: Arizona is best team, but has bracket hurdle to navigate

LISTEN: Mike DeCourcy, college basketball insider

For the sixth time since 1988, the Arizona Wildcats are the top-seed in the West Region of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The Wildcats (30-4) spent all season in the top six of the AP Poll and eight weeks at number one.

Heading into this year’s Big Dance, one college basketball insider thinks the ‘Cats are the team to beat.

“I think Arizona is probably the best team in the field and I think they would have been much more clearly so if Brandon Ashley hadn’t been injured,” Sporting News college basketball scribe Mike DeCourcy told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “They’re a terrific basketball team.”

The Wildcats, who won the regular season Pac-12 title and fell in the conference tournament championship game to UCLA, enter this year’s NCAA tourney with 30 wins — just the fifth time they’ve eclipsed the 30-win mark in their program’s storied history.

However, DeCourcy does see a potential hurdle in Arizona’s path to the Final Four.

“I don’t like the fact that Gonzaga-Oklahoma State is their 8/9 game. I don’t think either of them belongs in an 8/9 game and certainly I think they’ve made the weekend more difficult for Arizona than a number-one seed ought to have,” he said.

Gonzaga, the eight-seed coached by Mark Few, is making its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the WCC regular season title and conference tournament. The Bulldogs have racked up 18 tournament wins during their impressive postseason streak.

Oklahoma State began the season in the AP Top 10, but ran into some difficulty in late January when they lost seven straight games and played without their best player, guard Marcus Smart, for three games due to a suspension. Since his return, the Cowboys are 5-2 and have a win over then-5th-ranked Kansas to their credit.

“I don’t think in general (the committee) did a very good job,” DeCourcy said.

The Wildcats take on 16th-seeded Weber State in San Diego Friday morning.