Re-ranking Arizona basketball among Sweet 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament

Mar 25, 2024, 12:48 PM

(L-R) Caleb Love #2, Keshad Johnson #16, Oumar Ballo #11, and Jaden Bradley #0 of the Arizona Wildc...

(L-R) Caleb Love #2, Keshad Johnson #16, Oumar Ballo #11, and Jaden Bradley #0 of the Arizona Wildcats look on as Pelle Larsson #3 (not pictured) shoots free throws against the Dayton Flyers during the second half in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Delta Center on March 23, 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

After wins over No. 15 Long Beach State and No. 7 Dayton, the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats continue their quest for the first Final Four since 2001 and first national championship since 1997.

They have their work cut out for them, though, with all of the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds still competing for the national championship.

A look at where college basketball analysts are re-ranking Arizona among the rest of the Sweet 16 before the Wildcats’ matchup against No. 6 Clemson in Los Angeles on Thursday:

Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports senior writer Jeff Eisenberg ranked Arizona sixth among the 16 teams left in the big dance. Eisenberg sees the Wildcats’ “home-court advantage” in Los Angeles as a plus.

In three seasons in Tucson, Tommy Lloyd has won 88 games, captured two Pac-12 titles and claimed two conference tournament crowns. Now he takes aim at leading Arizona to its first Final Four in 23 years, a long drought made worse by how many close calls the Wildcats have endured. Ten times since 2001 they’ve advanced to the Sweet 16 but fallen short. Five times they’ve reached the Elite Eight only to be swatted aside. This year, like many of those previous years, Arizona will have home-court advantage playing the West regional in nearby Los Angeles. The Wildcats also have the added motivation of a home-state Final Four if they can win two more games.

Arizona has viable options for offense during the tournament. Caleb Love scored 18 points against the Beach and 19 points against Dayton.

Kylan Boswell had 20 points against Long Beach State while Pelle Larsson and Keshad Johnson scored double digits individually in both games. Jaden Bradley gave 12 points off the bench with key contributions against Dayton.

The Wildcats stayed true to their superb defensive statistics in the first two rounds, preventing both Long Beach State and Dayton from scoring 70 points. According to KenPom, Arizona ranks 10th in defensive efficiency this season.

SB Nation

SB Nation’s Mark Schofield dubbed the Wildcats the “Arizona Wildcards” for their matchup against the Tigers on Thursday and ranked them ninth overall.

With around 11 minutes remaining in Saturday’s second-round game between Arizona and Dayton, a three-pointer from DaRon Holmes II cut the Wildcats’ lead to just three. After breaking out to a 17-point lead in the first half, the Flyers upped the defensive pressure, and the Wildcats were in trouble.

But Arizona found a way to move on, withstanding the pressure and defensive tempo to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. As the game unfolded Arizona started to match pressure with pressure, finding ways to attack the Dayton press and create easy buckets for them. While the Flyers held Arizona below their season average of 88 points, Saturday’s win demonstrated that the Wildcats can find different ways to win, and can withstand the pressure game the Flyers brought to the floor.

That resilience should serve them well next weekend.

Clemson ranks second-to-last at 15 on SB Nation’s list after a win over No. 11 New Mexico and a 72-64 upset over No. 3 seed Baylor.

Chase Hunter had 20 points in the win against the Bears and is one of Clemson’s looming threats going into its matchup against Arizona.

CBS Sports

CBS Sports’ Chip Patterson gave Arizona another top-half ranking among the remaining 16 teams, placing it fifth.

Patterson credits the Wildcats’ resiliency and ability to find different ways to win over their last two games.

Long Beach State made things interesting early and Dayton made things interesting late, but whenever Arizona was pushed during its opening weekend action, the Wildcats had a strong response. And while this is a group that averaged 81.5 points per game across the two wins, the most encouraging takeaway may have been on the defensive side. Dayton has a skilled and versatile offense that causes plenty of matchup problems for opponents, and Arizona was able to mix it up and hold the Flyers to one of their least efficient performances of the season. Deep runs in the NCAA Tournament require winning in different ways, and Arizona showed that on its path to the Sweet 16.

If the Wildcats defeat the Tigers on Thursday, they will play the winner of UNC-Alabama in the Elite 8.

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Arizona is as of Monday the fourth most likely team to win the national championship (+850).

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