Sporting News’ DeCourcy: ‘Arizona has a shot at Elite 8’

Mar 14, 2016, 8:41 AM
Arizona guard Allonzo Trier shoots over Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, and Oregon forward Chri...
Arizona guard Allonzo Trier shoots over Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, and Oregon forward Chris Boucher, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)
LISTEN: Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News college basketball writer

The Arizona Wildcats are making their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 32 seasons.

Sean Miller’s team is the 6th seed in the South Region and will open up this year’s March run Thursday night in Providence, Rhode Island.

The thing is, the Wildcats don’t know who they’ll be playing against just yet.

Arizona will face the winner of a First Four game between 11 seeds Vanderbilt and Wichita State. That game will take place Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.

Regardless of who wins that matchup, Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy believes Arizona will have a tough road.

“First of all, you’ve got to defeat a very difficult team in Vanderbilt or Wichita,” DeCourcy told Doug and Wolf Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Let’s not skip over that. Vanderbilt has two 7-foot players and an NBA-level point guard in Wade Baldwin, so that’s going to be a challenge for them.”

The Commodores (19-13) finished tied for third in the SEC this season, in what was a down year for the conference. Those 7-footers are Damian Jones, a junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who averaged 14.2 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest. He was an All-SEC First Team selection. The other big is Luke Kornet, a junior from Lantana, Texas. Kornet averaged 8.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but really made his mark on the defensive end. Kornet was an SEC All-Defensive Team pick.

Baldwin, a sophomore from New Jersey, was a Second Team All-SEC pick after averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game. He’s rated as the 17th-best NBA Draft prospect for 2016 by Draft Express.

But Wichita State also looms as a potential first-round opponent for Arizona. The Shockers (24-8) also pose a serious threat.

“Wichita has a four-year starting backcourt that’s been to the Final Four, the Sweet Sixteen and also has an undefeated season,” DeCourcy said.

That backcourt is comprised of point guard Fred Van Vleet and shooting guard Ron Baker. Van Vleet averaged 12.0 points and nearly six assists per game for the Shockers, while Baker pumped in 14.2 points per game.

“It’s a very difficult draw early for Arizona, but not a bad position generally,” DeCourcy said. “Not a bad spot. Miami’s not overly talented. They’re extremely well-coached and have a terrific point guard in Angel Rodriguez, but I think Arizona has a shot there of getting to the Elite Eight and taking their chance against probably the best team in the field in Kansas.”

Miami, the 3-seed out of the ACC, opens against 14th-seeded Buffalo Thursday in Providence. The Hurricanes (25-7) are coached by Jim Larranaga and finished tied for second place with Virginia, going 13-5 in conference play.

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Sporting News’ DeCourcy: ‘Arizona has a shot at Elite 8’