It’s the final day of February and that typically means all eyes are on the NCAA Tournament. Who will get in? Who’s still on the bubble? Who has Cinderella potential?
Instead, seemingly all of college basketball’s attention has shifted after being rocked by the FBI’s corruption investigation into the sport and Tucson, Arizona has taken center stage.
We’re still in the dark in regards to what the future holds for Sean Miller at Arizona, how it affects the eligibility of Deandre Ayton, if at all, and how it could affect Arizona’s spot in this year’s Big Dance or years to come, for that matter.
But the show must go on. The Arizona Wildcats are coming off a tough road loss and have now been without Allonzo Trier for the last two games, while Miller missed Saturday’s game at Oregon and has yet to return to the team. They’ve got two regular season games remaining before next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.
The selection committee hasn’t always been consistent with everything they do but they have shown in the past that not having your roster fully intact can hurt your seeding. The thinking is you’re not the same team that built your resume. With Trier out indefinitely and Arizona now 3-3 in their last six games, we have them dropping to a 5-seed this week.
Let’s take a look at the bracket and Arizona’s projected path through March Madness.
Last Four Byes: NC State, St. Bonaventure, Kansas State, USC
Last Four In: Providence, Baylor, Louisville, UCLA
First Four Out: Texas, Syracuse, Utah, Washington
Next Four Out: Nebraska, Marquette, Mississippi State, Boise State
Despite falling down a line, not much changes here for Arizona. They still start out in San Diego and find themselves in the West Region with the Final Four going through Los Angeles. Though their potential second round matchup is not ideal. The Gonzaga Bulldogs are one of only four schools that rank in the top 25 of both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency per KenPom. Duke, Purdue and Michigan State, all 2-seeds in this projection, are the other three.
Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the drama continues. The Arizona State Sun Devils and UCLA Bruins appeared to be the safest teams to get into the field, other than Arizona, this time last week. They both suffered weekend sweeps this past weekend and are now hanging on for dear life.
ASU stands as a 10-seed but a slip-up at home against Cal or Stanford this week could put them in a world of hurt.
UCLA is currently our last team in the field. They meet up with their rival, the USC Trojans, on Saturday night, a game that might as well be an NCAA Tournament eliminator. USC sits on the 11-line going into their final regular season game. Neither team can afford another loss with such little time remaining.
Conference tournaments are beginning, bubbles are being busted and the top teams need to make a statement. March is almost here — and so is the madness.
On the edge of madness, we’ll see how Arizona fares Thursday night when they’re back at McKale Center to play the Stanford Cardinal at 8 p.m. MST on Fox Sports 1.