The Arizona Wildcats come into the NCAA Tournament with a record of 25-8. This is widely known as the deepest the Pac-12 has been in many years and Arizona was able to guide their way to a 12-6 record in Pac-12 play. They came one free throw away from defeating the Pac-12's number-one seed, and eventual NCAA Tournament number-one seed, Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal.
But, alas, here we are, and the Wildcats are a 6-seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Wildcat fans have a gripe as Arizona appears to be under-seeded. But it could be worse than being a 6-seed.
Oh, and it is. Arizona is the 6-seed in, quite possibly, the most frightening region in the tournament. The South region is home to the nation's undisputed number one team, another team that could have easily gotten a 1-seed, a Pac-12 conference foe that's on fire, a preseason Final Four favorite and an experienced tournament squad that is even more under-seeded than the Wildcats themselves.
So who will survive this region? Who will go to Houston for the Final Four?
#1 Kansas vs. #16 Austin Peay
A 16-seed has never defeated a 1-seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament. This has been a wild season but not THAT wild. Kansas advances.
#8 Colorado vs. #9 Connecticut
The Colorado Buffaloes are a good team. Josh Scott is a very good player and an even better leader and the whole team can shoot the three. But there are just certain trends that shouldn't be ignored. And when the Connecticut Huskies get rolling in March, special things happen. Colorado is good at shooting threes but bad at shooting twos and UConn's interior defense is top-notch. Huskies big man, Amida Brimah is a good enough defender to affect Josh Scott. Connecticut advances.
#5 Maryland vs. #12 South Dakota State
The Maryland Terrapins were a Final Four favorite back in November. They have the tools to get it done now. But they've underachieved. And the Jackrabbits are hungry for an upset behind Freshman forward, Mike Daum. In a 5-12 classic, South Dakota State advances.
#4 California vs. #13 Hawaii
After a slow start, the California Golden Bears appear to be firing on all cylinders now. They're too big and too physical for Hawaii. Cal advances.
#6 Arizona vs. #11 Wichita State (Def. Vanderbilt in First Four)
Arizona is a genuine threat for a deep tournament run. I firmly believe that. But they couldn't have received a more difficult draw. According to Ken Pomeroy, Wichita State is the 12th best team in the country. And they're an 11-seed. Early injuries and being a mid-major did the Shockers no favors with the selection committee. But in reality, they did Arizona no favors. Senior guards, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, have been on a Final Four team, a 35-1 team and a Sweet Sixteen team that knocked off last year's Kansas Jayhawks. Arizona has the chops to play to the second weekend and beyond. But I can see some struggles coming against the #1 ranked defense in the land. With my deepest apologies to Sean Miller, Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski and probably everyone reading this -- Wichita State advances.
#3 Miami vs. #14 Buffalo
The Miami Hurricanes have been among the most consistent teams in the country all year long. I don't see that ending with an upset. Miami advances.
#7 Iowa vs. #10 Temple
The Iowa Hawkeyes were in the mix for a 1-seed just over a month ago. Then, an absolute free-fall happened, culminating in a loss to lowly Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. They're arguably the coldest team entering the field. I don't see that changing now. Temple advances.
#2 Villanova vs. #15 UNC Asheville
The Villanova Wildcats are too good at both ends to fall to a 15-seed. Villanova advances.
#1 Kansas vs. #9 Connecticut
The Kansas Jayhawks have been the best team most of the season and they have been unstoppable since late January. But number one teams have been beaten at random moments this season. Over the years, Kansas has been susceptible to early defeats in the NCAA tournament. And UConn is just now finding its groove offensively. The three headed monster of guards, Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs, accompanied by 65-foot shot man, Jalen Adams, are putting something together. What's March without a little madness? Maybe it's bold, maybe it's stupid -- Connecticut advances.
#4 California vs. #12 South Dakota State
Cal's defense and athleticism will just be too much. Cal advances.
#3 Miami vs. #11 Wichita State
Miami is extremely efficient and they don't really make mistakes. Miami advances.
#2 Villanova vs. #10 Temple
Villanova has absolutely dominated their Philly foes over the last three years. I can't see this going any differently than their regular season matchup (Villanova won 83-67). Villanova advances.
#4 California vs. #9 Connecticut
The best way to beat UConn is being prepared to grind out a victory. Cal's bodies are bigger and stronger, led by freshmen, Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown. But coaches win in March and if I'm betting on Kevin Ollie or Cuonzo Martin, I'll take Ollie. Connecticut advances.
#2 Villanova vs. #3 Miami
In all of Villanova's losses this season, they struggled shooting the three ball at just 29%. Miami makes defensive adjustments better than anyone in the country behind head coach, Jim Larranaga and his analytical mind. I see Villanova struggling to make shots against a game Miami perimeter defense. Miami advances.
#3 Miami vs. #9 Connecticut
This game would be an absolute battle, with Miami's consistent offense taking on Connecticut's consistent defense. I think Jim Larranaga is a top coach, he's just needed the talent. Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez bring that to the Canes backcourt. MIAMI GOES TO THE FINAL FOUR.