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Arizona’s Road to the Final Four

March 16th, 2014 News No Comments

Contributing Writer
Martin Hayvush

Well another Selection Sunday has come and gone, and college basketball fans have already started to furiously fill in their brackets. But what should we make of Arizona’s draw in the 2014 NCAA Tournament? Here’s everything you need to know about the Wildcats’ road to the Final Four.

#16 Weber State– Arizona’s first game of the tournament will be against another set of Wildcats, these ones from Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Winners of the Big Sky Conference, Weber State is led by 6-4 senior Davion Berry, who averages over 19 points per game. As a senior and an Oakland, CA native, Berry will have a lot to play for in what could be his last college game.

Weber State is also a good shooting team, hitting 48% of their field goals and 39% from three point distance.

#8 Gonzaga– A perennial cinderella team for many years, Gonzaga has once again put together an impressive record at 28-6. Senior big man Sam Dower leads the Bulldogs in both points and rebounds, averaging 15 and 7 per game.

Gonzaga also has experienced leadership at the point guard position in junior Kevin Pangos, who is second on the team with 14.1 points per game.

Should Gonzaga advance to play Arizona in the round of 32, it would be a match of two of the most successful western programs over the last decade.

#9 Oklahoma State– Perhaps the most dangerous 9 seed in the tournament, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State have the talent of a much higher seeded team. Led by Marcus Smart, one of the most impactful players in the country, OK St is a very dangerous team.

If they’re able to get past Gonzaga in the first round, Oklahoma St vs Arizona would be one of the most anticipated third round matchups. Despite losing 7 straight games at one point this year, the Cowboys still hold big wins over Kansas, Memphis, and Colorado.

Oklahoma State is also tested in close games, as they’ve already played 4 overtime games this season. Three of those games were against top 20 ranked teams, including a triple overtime loss to 3 seed in the Eastern region, Iowa St.

Beyond Smart, the Cowboys also have talent in athletic guard Markel Brown, physically dominant forward LeBryan Nash, and three point deadeye Phil Forte.

#4 San Diego State– A team that Arizona is well acquainted with, the Aztecs of San Diego St had a thrilling matchup vs the Wildcats in last year’s Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, in which the Wildcats won thanks to last second defensive heroics from Nick Johnson. And earlier this year, Arizona went into hostile territory and escaped with a narrow win at SDSU, furthering the bitterness of this budding rivalry.

The Aztecs had a brilliant season, going 29-4 before tourney play. Three of their losses came at the hands of Arizona and New Mexico, and they even rattled off a 20 game win streak, making this a confident group.

Adding to the intrigue of a potential Sweet 16 matchup with SDSU is that the game would be played in Anaheim, favorable territory for both squads. The Aztec following would probably not outnumber the Arizona fans, but there’s potential for a raucous 50/50 crowd that makes this a true March Madness game.

Look for many national analysts to pick the revenge-minded San Diego State team as a popular upset pick over Arizona in their brackets.

#5 Oklahoma– The Sooners took on a tough schedule this year, playing games against eight ranked opponents at the time. While their record of 23-9 isn’t exactly sparkling, Oklahoma proved that they could play with top flight teams in wins against Iowa St, Texas, as well as two wins over Baylor and Oklahoma St.

Oklahoma has a balanced attack, led by Buddy Hield’s 16.8 points per game. The Sooners have three other players averaging double digit points, as well as 6-8 Ryan Spangler who nearly averages a double-double with 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

#2 Wisconsin– On the other side of the region, the field is highlighted by UW. This isn’t your typical Wisconsin Badgers team who plays a plodding place, in fact it might be coach Bo Ryan’s most talented offensive team in many years.

Winning 16 games to start the season, 12th ranked Wisconsin were just 3 games behind Michigan for the Big 10 conference title.

Much like Arizona, the Badgers rely on a team effort rather than star play to win games. Six Wisconsin players average between 8 and 13 points per game, with five of those players contributing at least 3.5 rebounds per game as well.

A disciplined, well coached squad, Wisconsin will force Arizona to execute offensively if they meet.

#3 Creighton– The Bluejays, who finished 2nd in the Big East, might have the best player in the country in 6-8 senior Doug McDermott.

A fierce scorer, McDermott averages 26.9 points per game and has not yet been stopped by an opposing defense. The talented offensive player has twelve 30-point games this season, and even hit a season high 45 points on March 8th.

Should Arizona and Creighton cross paths on the way to the Final Four, it will be an epic showdown of offensive firepower vs defensive fortitude. Arizona, perhaps the best defense in the country, would be tasked with slowing down Creighton’s 79.5 points per game. The Bluejays also average 17.7 assists per game, 2nd best in the nation, while shooting 49.9% from the field, 4th best in the nation.

#6 Baylor– Though it’s unlikely 6 seed Baylor will come out of their half of the region, they could be a potential darkhorse to advance to the Elite 8. Despite going 9-9 in Big 12 conference play, the Bears are on a hot streak winning 10 of their last 12.

6-9 senior Corey Jefferson is the man for Baylor, with team highs of 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. If Baylor is going to upset there way to a matchup with Arizona, it will likely be behind the stellar play of Jefferson.

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