Arizona on Upset Alert in NCAA Tournament

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There's a lot to like about this Arizona team. 

The Wildcats are deep, they have a star player who's proven he can put the team on his back, they're more than capable from beyond the arc and Sean Miller has legitimate tournament experience. 

But despite their positive traits, the Wildcats have every characteristics of a team poised to make an early exit. Arizona is officially on upset alert. 

 

 

 

The Wildcats were certainly dealt a tough draw with Memphis in the first round, most likely followed by Texas and Duke. But it's not that rigorous road to the Sweet 16 that makes Miller's squad vulnerable to an upset. 

First, remember this is a team with basically zero NCAA Tournament experience. The only current players to have played in the Big Dance are Jamelle Horne, Brendon Lavender and Alex Jacobson -- not exactly Arizona's headliners. 

The NCAA Tournament is an atmosphere that can't be replicated and it remains to be seen how these 19 and 20-year-olds react when the lights get bright. Miller has openly called this group immature while saying that they lack one figurehead and vocal leader.  

The Wildcats aren't exactly a road savvy group either. Including the Pac-10 Tournament, they went 10-7 on the road, which is a far cry from their 17-0 record in McKale Center. 

Arizona has yet to prove it can win tough games on the road and its best win away from McKale was its most recent victory against a mediocre USC team -- and Pac-10 Tournament crowds aren't exactly rowdy. 

If it weren't for their home dominance this season, the Wildcats would be a mediocre team that barely snuck into the tournament -- which is what they may look like if this young squad can't handle playing in Tulsa, Okla. 

 

Next, this is a team that counts on so many players to play well. Sure it's better to be deep than to be thin, but if you need four or five guys to play well in order to win it's hard to rack up victory after victory. 

Even if Derrick Williams comes to play, guys like Momo Jones, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Kyle Fogg need to bring it also -- or at least a few of them. 

Williams does a great job as the catalyst for this team, but he's had huge games where the Wildcats just didn't enough contribution from its supporting cast.

For example, he went off for 24 and 11 in the Pac-10 Tournament Championship against Washington, but Jones went 1-for-8 with three turnovers, Fogg struggled through a thigh injury and Arizona lost. 

Depth is certainly a good thing, but the Wildcats rely on so many different players to contribute that if a few guys underperform, it's going to be a long night. 

And although Arizona won the Pac-10 regular season title outright an ended with an impressive 27 wins, who have the Wildcats really beaten?

They've now lost to Washington twice, with their only win coming at home. Aside form the home Washington win, their best victory was a home win over UCLA early in the season. 

The Pac-10 is extremely weak this season, and Arizona didn't exactly dominate the competition. Arizona hasn't beaten anyone that's higher than a seven seed, while finishing with a 5-6 record against NCAA Tournament teams. 

The Wildcats played Kansas tight before falling in the closing minutes, but they got Jimmered by BYU and haven' proven that they're that much better than any of the top Pac-10 teams. 

And then there's the historic 5/12 upset. For 22 of the last 23 years at least one 5-seed has been upset by a 12-seed in the first round of the tournament. Over the course of the last five NCAA Tournaments, the 5-seed is only 11-9 against the 12-seed in the first round. 

The Wildcats may not follow that statistic this season, but because of all of their upset-worthy attributes there's reason to think they will. Memphis isn't impressive by any means. 

They snuck into the tournament with a Conference USA Tournament victory and have really only one good win -- an early season victory over Gonzaga. 

The Tigers' conference is weak, but then again Josh Pastner knows Arizona basketball as well as anyone, and Memphis is athletic enough to hang with Arizona. 

It isn't so much about the matchup, however, it's about Arizona beating itself. The Wildcats' youth, road struggles and short list of impressive victories has them on upset alert. 

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