Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen writes that Belmont is due for an NCAA tournament victory after losing five opening round games in the the previous seven years. Boise State was also 0-5 in NCAA tournament appearances before Wednesday’s First Four game against LaSalle. Make it 0-6 for the Broncos, who lost 80-71 to the Explorers. LIU Brooklyn is also 0-6 with its loss to James Madison Wednesday. North Carolina A&T ended its tournament-victory drought Tuesday with a 73-72 victory over Liberty on Tuesday. The Aggies were 0-9 in NCAA tournament games before the narrow victory over Liberty, a team that lost 20 games this season. Arizona lost in its first three NCAA tournament appearances in the first four years after Lute Olson was hired in 1983. The Wildcats finally blew out Cornell in 1988 to earn their first NCAA tournament win under Olson. They advanced to their first Final Four that season. Arizona was due for a win in the NCAA tournament that season, but the Wildcats also had one of the most dominating teams in college hoops with Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott. The prevailing thought might be Belmont is overdue for a tournament win, but let’s not forget Arizona last year did not make the NCAA tournament field, which is a major upset for that program. Try telling players like Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Johnson that Belmont is hungrier for a win on this stage.
UA freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski has improved throughout the season, the player for Arizona who has shown the most continuous gradual climb. Despite this transformation, Tarczewski is not a growing focal point of Arizona’s offensive execution. The Wildcats have shown a concerted effort to get Tarczewski the ball on the blocks, but the young talent actually took less field-goal attempts in the second half of the Pac-12 season than the first. In the first half, Tarczewski tried 46 field goals and converted 16 (34.8 percent). In the second half of the conference season (excluding the two Pac-12 tournament games last week), he attempted 39 field goals. He made 24 of those tries, a percentage of 61.5. Arizona coach Sean Miller has not utilized Tarczewski more as a scoring outlet but he developed more efficient ways of getting the post player the ball at the right place. That shows in the nearly 30-point increase of Tarczewski’s field-goal percentage. Because of his size advantage as a 7-footer going against Belmont’s 6-7 frontcourt players, he might try a season-high 10 field goals or more against the Bruins. Better yet for Arizona, he will draw two or three defenders creating opportunities for others.
If Hill gets 17 points and seven rebounds against Belmont, he will become one of only seven UA players who are ranked among the program’s top 20 in career scoring and top 10 in career rebounding. The list includes the likes of Sean Elliott, Bob Elliott, Al Fleming and Channing Frye. Hill also enters Thursday’s game ready to move into sole possession of second place on Arizona’s career games played list. He has played in 136 games, a figure he currently shares with Gardner (1999-2003). Additionally, Hill needs just eight rebounds and eight points to become the eighth player in school history with 1,400 points and 750 rebounds. Hill is averaging 13.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game this season. Those averages are similar when Arizona wins or loses. Hill averages 13.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in Arizona’s 25 wins. He averages 13.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in the seven losses. The most significant difference is Hill’s three-point shooting. Hill is 9-of-31 (29 percent) from three-point range in the UA’s losses. He is 42 of 106 (39.6 percent) when Arizona wins. When Hill went cold from the outside against UCLA last week, it seemed the Wildcats went flat as well.
RELATED NCAA TOURNAMENT LINKS
— Greg Hansen of The Arizona Daily Star: Belmont may stir up painful memories
— Patrick Finley of The Arizona Daily Star: Frontline mismatch: Wildcats wary of the little guy
— Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star: Pac-12 penalty in past, excited Miller moves on
— Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com: Arizona notes: Mark Lyons looking to get hot in the NCAA Tournament
— Gimino: Mom’s move to Tucson a blessing for Arizona freshman Kaleb Tarczewski
— Gimino: Arizona responds to President Obama’s upset pick
— Reprimands happen: Public action against Sean Miller also occurred with Lute Olson
— All you need to know about Salt Lake City bracket pod (Arizona, Belmont, Harvard and New Mexico) from A to Z
— Balanced, experienced Belmont poses productive rotation
— Belmont has nation’s top three-point shooter, highly-ranked defensive statistics
— Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com: Arizona frosh starting to deliver on potential
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner