Wildcats Will Look to Shoot Way to National Title
This has not been a season to remember in the Pac-12 with perhaps only two teams from the conference being a part of the March Madness bracket.
Arizona will certainly be in the field of 68 and the hope is that the Wildcats can make a run to the Pac-12 tournament title before beginning play in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is holding steady at No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Arizona hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 since the 2014-15 season so this is a chance for the Wildcats to make up for some lost time.
The odds to win March Madness has Arizona (+1400) as the odds to win the national title so there are lofty expectations for the Wildcats. The odds could improve if Arizona runs the table and wins the Pac-12 tournament, especially if UCLA is the opponent in the conference title game
As the March Madness predictions begin to heat up, it is time to look at why the Wildcats could win the program’s first national title since 1997.
When making March Madness picks, it should be noted that the Wildcats finished tied for seventh in the Pac-12 during the regular season with a 14-16-1 mark against the spread.
Getting Passing Grades
Arizona is currently 11th in the NCAA NET Rankings and among teams that played at least 10 Quad 1 games, the Wildcats have the best winning percentage in those matchups with an 8-2 mark.
The Wildcats played and beat ranked San Diego State and Creighton teams in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in November. They also own wins over Tennessee and conference rival UCLA and that could be crucial because the quality of competition in the Pac-12 leaves much to be desired. It will be hard to ignore Arizona’s success against ranked teams and in Quad 1 contests when it comes time to analyze March Madness expert picks.
Lighting It Up
Arizona is an explosive offensive team that is fourth national in points per game.
Azuolas Tubelis has posted career highs in field goal percentage (57.7), 3-point shooting (33.3%) and foul shooting (76.6%). He is averaging 18.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in six games against ranked teams so he doesn’t shy away from elite competition.
Over the top 🔝@azuolaz10 has six early points.
📺 @espn pic.twitter.com/2tMplbxhdh
— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) March 5, 2023
This is not a one-player team with five players averaging more than 10 points per game. Guards Kerr Kriisa, Courtney Ramey and Pelle Larsson have combined for 362 assists and 185 assists so there won’t be many wasted possessions when the ball is in their hands. Kriisa and Ramey also lead the team in 3-pointers and that opens up room for the 6-foot-11 Tubelis and 7-foot Oumar Ballo to operate in the lane.
Arizona is second nationally in assists per game and also in the top 10 in effective field goal percentage so it won’t be easy for opponents to shut down this Arizona team.
The Wildcats have been favored according to the Las Vegas odds in all but one game this season so they know how to handle the pressure that comes with being expected to win and that could prove beneficial as the NCAA Tournament gets underway.
😂 https://t.co/vxS6Mf5i59 pic.twitter.com/NAkwjIxOME
— Kerr (@KerrKriisa) March 7, 2023
All Hands on Deck
Seven Arizona players average more than 10 minutes per game and six of them have played all 31 games. The lone exception is Ramey, who missed three games. Those contests were the first three of the season so the seven-player rotation has been intact for nearly the entire season.
Tubelis, Ballo, Kriisa and Larsson have played together for two or three years so there is plenty of continuity even in the transfer portal era when it can be hard to keep a team’s nucleus together.
Ramey and Cedric Henderson transferred in from Texas and Campbel, respectively,l while freshman Kylan Boswell is another newcomer who has fit right in. Ramey had nine straight games with at least two 3-pointers before missing all four of his shots from distance in a loss to UCLA in the regular-season finale.
With a solid rotation to work with, the March Madness odds could be calling for an extended March Madness run for the Wildcats.
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If there is a concern about this Arizona team, it comes on the defensive end of the floor.
Arizona allowed more than 80 points in four of the last six games during the regular season and lost three of those games, so there are times when the Wildcats aren’t always dialed in on the defensive end.
Defense tends to win at this time of the season so that is something that could end Arizona’s title hopes depending on the opponent in the NCAA Tournament.