In contrast to most years, the Arizona Wildcats are pegged by many analysts as a team that will reach the Final Four based on its seed and potential matchups in the West regional.
Analysts such as Charles Barkley, Grant Hill and Scott Van Pelt have Arizona going all the way.
The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed, open against No. 15 seed North Dakota, the Big Sky champion, on Thursday at 6:50 p.m. in Salt Lake City on TBS. If they get past the Fighting Hawks, they play the winner of No. 7 seed St. Mary’s and No. 10 seed VCU on Saturday.
Beyond that, Arizona could face No. 3 Florida State, No. 6 Maryland, No. 11 Xavier and No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 in San Jose, Calif.
Top-seed Gonzaga is on the opposite end of the bracket as is No. 4 West Virginia and No. 5 Notre Dame.
“Arizona got the best draw,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “I think Arizona has a very nice draw to the Final Four.”
Bilas has the Wildcats going that far before losing to Duke.
The following are some social media reactions from national media types on the Wildcats’ potential road to Glendale, where the Final Four will be held this year.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports believes Sean Miller’s path is clearer this time (maybe because no Wisconsin on the other side?)
Compared to Arizona's last three trips to E8 under Sean Miller, Wildcats have much clearer path to Final Four this year. Door is wide open.
Viewpoint from longtime basketball writer Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic:
First thought after looking at the West … Sean Miller's going to the Final Four this year.
Nothing about NCAA tournament outcome here but J.A. Andade points out benefit of living in Tucson this time of year.
Arizona trying to use selection Sunday as a stealth recruiting tool with the outdoor watching party pic.twitter.com/VxMA5PjZ1M
Jeff Goodman, an Arizona grad who does a good job of staying impartial, picks the Wildcats to be in the Final Four to play Duke. Kansas and UCLA are picked on the other side.
Final Four picks: Duke, Arizona, Kansas and UCLA. My national champion: Kansas – point guard(s) play.
Barkley projects Arizona to play defending champion Villanova in the Final Four before advancing to the title game. He didn’t say if it was North Carolina or Louisville that would play Miller’s team.
Charles Barkley has Arizona in his Final Four, and picked the Wildcats to win it all: pic.twitter.com/vwz11sPmRI
Bill Walton’s sidekick Dave Pasch also agrees that Arizona has a promising path though the NCAA tournament.
I think this is the year Arizona (and the PAC 12) gets back to get final four.
Jeff Borzello of ESPN has Arizona also playing Duke with the Blue Devils beating the Bruins for the title.
Final Four: Duke, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA.
Duke over UCLA in the title game.
Former Arizona linebacker Lance Briggs, a media personality in Chicago where he starred for the Bears, is upset that Arizona is not a No. 1 seed with its resume.
Reg season co-champs, tourney champs, consecutive wins against top 10 teams. Only 4 losses, while playing 17 games w/o Trier = 2 seed? Smh
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.