Coming off its first Pac-12 Tournament title since 2002, the University of Arizona is poised to make some noise in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament.
After the Wildcats earned their third straight tournament berth, we asked our readers in the Sanderson Ford Poll Question of the Day, which can be found in the right-hand column of our home page, how far the team will make it during this year’s March Madness.
The most popular answer in the poll was the Final Four, an option which garnered 387 votes (35 percent) out of 1,000 overall.
The program hasn’t advanced that far since 2001, but a good number of our voters think this could be the year. The team reached the Elite 8 last year, but was edged by the Wisconsin Badgers, and there’s a good chance that’s who the Wildcats would face again in the same round this year, if they take care of business in the three prior rounds.
There was a roughly a two-way tie in our poll for the second-place answer: 247 voters (22 percent) said UA will win it all, while 245 people (also 22 percent) thought the team will get stopped in the Elite 8 for the second straight year. If Arizona — which finished the season ranked No. 5 — were to win the title, it would be the program’s first since 1997.
Surprisingly, 10 percent of voters (110 overall) said the school will be an early-round upset victim. Such a fate hasn’t befell the team as a high seed since 1999, when 13th-seeded Oklahoma triumphed 61-60 over Jason Terry and Co.
To round out the poll, 68 voters (6 percent) thought UA will make a Sweet 16 exit, while 43 individuals (4 percent) said the Wildcats will make it to the Championship Game but come up short — which is how their 2001 run ended.
Prominent players such as T.J. McConnell, Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York are holdovers from last year’s Elite 8 group, plus Brandon Ashley is healthy for this year’s tournament. It’s hard to argue against the Wildcats reaching as far or farther in the tournament than last year’s roster, but whatever happens, it’s sure to be madness.
The fun begins on Thursday at 11:10 a.m., as the second-seeded Wildcats take on No. 15 Texas Southern at the Moda Center in Portland.