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NCAA Tournament: Arizona men’s basketball earns No. 1 seed in South Region, will open vs. First Four winner

Bryant or Wright State is Wildcats’ first opponent

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-ncaa-tournament-bryant-wright-state-south-san-diego-2022-pac12 Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona has waited four years to return to the NCAA Tournament, so what’s a few extra days to learn who its first opponent will be?

The Wildcats landed the No. 2 overall seed in the 2022 field, getting the top seed in the South Region. They open play Friday in San Diego against the winner of Wednesday’s First Four game between Bryant and Wright State.

Tip time has been set for 4:27 p.m. PT, with the game being aired on truTV.

The UA (31-3) is a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2014, the first of consecutive seasons in which it reached the Elite Eight only to fall to Wisconsin in the West Region final. Those games were in California, but this time around Arizona’s second weekend would be played in San Antonio, the same city the UA women made its magical run to the national title game last spring.

Bryant (22-9) won the Northeast Conference tournament championship behind senior guard Peter Kiss, who leads the nation in scoring at 25.1 points per game. Wright State (21-13) won the Horizon League tourney title.

Beat Bryant or Wright State and Arizona would play either No. 8 Seton Hall (21-10) or No. 9 TCU (20-12) in Sunday’s second round, also in San Diego. Reach the Sweet 16 in San Antonio and the Wildcats would face someone from the likes of No. 4 Illinois, No. 5 Houston, No. 12 UAB and No. 13 Chattanooga, while a potential Elite Eight opponent would come from the bottom half of the South bracket that includes No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 6 Colorado State and No. 7 Ohio State.

Arizona is coming off an 84-76 win over UCLA in Saturday night’s Pac-12 Tournament final in Las Vegas, where it had tremendous fan support at what’s become known as McKale North. San Diego’s Viejas Arena is less than 400 miles from Tucson, while San Antonio is a 12-hour drive east on Interstate 10.

Make the Final Four, where Arizona hasn’t been since 2001, and it means spending early April in New Orleans.

UA coach Tommy Lloyd became just the third coach in NCAA history to lead his team to a No. 1 seed in his first season, joining North Carolina’s Bill Guthridge (1998) and Indiana State’s Bill Hodges (1979). Guthridge holds the record for most wins by a first-year coach, at 34, a number Lloyd would surpass if the Wildcats reached the Final Four.

The Pac-12 received three NCAA bids. UCLA got the No. 4 seed in the East and will face No. 13 Akron on Thursday in Portland, Ore., while USC got the No. 7 seed in the Midwest and will play No. 10 Miami (Fla.) on Friday in Greenville, S. Car.