Arizona Wildcats float around No. 1, 2 seed in bracketology projections

Mar 4, 2024, 8:04 PM

Caleb Love #2 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after scoring a basket against the Florida Atlantic Ow...

Caleb Love #2 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after scoring a basket against the Florida Atlantic Owls in the second half of the Desert Classic at T-Mobile Arena on December 23, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Owls defeated the Wildcats 96-95 in double overtime. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Arizona Wildcats sit at 23-6 on the season and on the cusp of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Or maybe not?

The big question for the Wildcats right now is if the Tennessee Volunteers (23-6) have a better resume to earn the fourth No. 1 seed. Tennessee recently got a win over No. 14 Alabama away from home last Saturday, which catapulted them into discussions for the last No.1 seed.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi still has the Wildcats as the last No. 1 seed, but the margin between the two programs is “razor-thin.” CBS’s Jerry Palm puts Tennessee over Arizona due to strength of schedule remaining.

Tennessee’s schedule puts them in the best position of the contenders chasing the No. 1 seed. The Volunteers finish the season with not just four Quad 1 opponents, but good Quad 1 games. North Carolina and especially Arizona do not have the schedules to hold Tennessee off if the Volunteers keep winning.

Arizona finishes up the regular season with USC and UCLA this weekend, while Tennessee still has to face No.18 South Carolina in Columbia and No.15 Kentucky at home. Even if the Volunteers win only one of those games, the argument towards their No.1 seed bid will strengthen.

Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy puts Tennessee over Arizona as well, again using the point that Tennessee has better wins this season and fewer upset losses.

Arizona has Caleb Love. Not as inspiring. And it has a Quad 3 loss. Of the teams in the NET top 15, no one has a higher average defeat – meaning the teams that beat the Wildcats have the worst average NET ranking of any top team’s conquerors. Stanford and Oregon State have a combined Pac-12 record of 11-26, and yet somehow two of the victories in that dreadful record were achieved against what the locals call U of A. The Wildcats also were swept by the only other high-quality team in their conference, Washington State.

Arizona still ranks above Tennessee in the KenPom rating, which was one of the determining factors in DeCourcy’s list. In the NCAA men’s basketball NET rankings, the Wildcats are sitting a spot above the Volunteers at four.

The Wildcats are 8-3 in Quad 1 wins, while Tennessee is 6-5. Quad 2 is even tighter with UA at 5-2 and the Volunteers at 6-1. Where Tennessee shows slight superiority is that they are 11-0 against Quad 3 and 4 squads, while Arizona is 10-1.

With margins this tight, Arizona can be the benefactors of their eight wins versus Quad 1 opponents or the victims of the worst average NET ranking of any top team’s losses.

Conference tournaments will play a role, as will a final regular season week against UCLA and USC on the road.

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