If the NCAA Tournament started today, Arizona men’s basketball would have the upper-hand over Pac-12 rival UCLA for seeding.
The NCAA selection committee gave Arizona the No. 2 seed in the West region and the No. 6 seed overall during its early bracket reveal Saturday morning. The committee announced the top 16 seeds.
Arizona (23-4) is two spots above UCLA (22-4), the No. 2 seed in the East and the No. 8 overall seed, despite the Wildcats being 1.5 games behind the Bruins in the Pac-12 standings.
Alabama is the top overall seed, while reigning national champion Kansas Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed in the West. No. 3 seed Kansas State and No. 4 seed Gonzaga rounded out the West region.
Arizona and UCLA play each other in Pauley Pavilion on March 4 to conclude the regular season. The Wildcats won the February meeting in Tucson by a score of 58-52.
UCLA might need to beat Arizona twice more, in Los Angeles and again in the Pac-12 Tournament, to leapfrog the Wildcats. Even then it might not be enough.
UCLA’s best chance to surpass Arizona would be if the Wildcats fall to another inferior Pac-12 foe. The Wildcats already have losses to Utah, Washington State, Oregon and Stanford, none of whom are on track to make the NCAA Tournament.
It seems the committee is more impressed with Arizona’s resume-bolstering wins over San Diego State, Creighton, Tennessee, Indiana and UCLA than it is concerned with those conference blemishes.
Tennessee and Indiana made the early bracket reveal as the No. 9 and No. 13 seeds, respectively. Creighton missed the No. 16 seed to Sean Miller’s Xavier program by a “razor thin” margin, said committee chair Chris Reynolds.
A lot can change between now and Selection Sunday in three weeks, but Arizona is on track to play in the West Regional. Playing out west is always significant, but especially this year as the regional will be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a venue where Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd is undefeated since taking the UA job.
Las Vegas sportsbooks wouldn’t mind seeing Arizona fans make two trips to town in March. Arizona is at +330 to make the Final Four and +1400 to win the NCAA Tournament according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Wildcats are favored by 12.5 points for today’s matchup against Colorado, which tips off at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.