Arizona Basketball has had a rocky road to the NCAA Tournament, and all the experts have something to say about it—and none of it is nice.
After losing three of their final five games and being bounced by UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Wildcats are a trendy pick to be on “upset watch.” Members of ESPN, CBS Sports, USA Today and Yahoo! Sports are all predicting the Wildcats’ early ouster.
It wasn’t that long ago when Sean Miller’s Wildcats were 14-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Ultimately, teams are judged on how they finish and not how they begin, and Miller’s ‘Cats finished 5-5 in their final 10 games.
No. 6 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 11 Belmont Bruins
- West Region
- Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
- Date: Thursday, March 21
- Time: 7:20 p.m. ET
- TV Coverage: TNT
Here is what the others experts are saying about Arizona’s future in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
CBS Sports – Seth Davis
As soon as the matchup against Belmont was revealed on the CBS Selection Show on Sunday, the CBS Sports analyst claimed the Belmont Bruins would upset Arizona.
He later tweeted:
Arizona’s number one weakness all season was defending the three. Belmont is spread, drive, kick and shoot. Plus they’re poised.
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 18, 2013
When asked about Belmont’s chances of making the Sweet 16, he replied: “If I offer one win, will you take it? I think they’ll get ‘Zona.”
Yahoo! Sports – Pat Forde
Pat Forde has put together a comprehensive list of sleepers, bracket-wreckers, must-watch players and in Arizona’s case—The Fraudulent Five.
Prominent teams that could be bounced from the Dance early:
Memphis Tough to trust the talented but looney Tigers, who miss enough free throws and commit enough turnovers to make just about every game against quality competition an arduous one. Josh Pastner is 0-2 as an NCAA tournament coach.
Michigan The Wolverines wobbled down the stretch, losing half of their final 12 games. The last quality team they beat outside of Ann Arbor was Illinois – in January.
Arizona Seems an eternity ago that the Wildcats were 14-0. Since then they are 11-7 and have beaten just one NCAA tournament team (Colorado).
Missouri The Tigers have Final Four talent but sub-NIT poise and execution in late-game situations. Give them a chance to blow a lead in the final minutes and they will. They’re also helpless outside of Columbia, Mo.
Pittsburgh Underperforming in the tournament is a proud Panthers tradition.
He also lists the Belmont Bruins as a bracket wrecker stating that:
“Coach Rick Byrd is 0-5 in the NCAA tourney, but this may be his year to win one. The senior backcourt of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson is one of the best in the Dance, and this team can shoot extremely well.”
USA Today: David Leon Moore
In the USA Today‘s breakdown of the West Region, Moore has No. 1 seed Gonzaga going all the way against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes but also offers up this tidbit:
Potential upset: No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Arizona. Is Belmont the best basketball program in the country never to have won an NCAA tournament game? This is the sixth NCAA appearance for Belmont since 2006, but its record stands at 0-5. Maybe they can end their losing streak in this one, and not just because they have a nickname — Bruins — that has beaten Arizona three times this year, all courtesy of UCLA. Belmont senior guard Ian Clark — 18.1 points a game, 46.3% from beyond the arc — is the kind of three-point marksman that can give Arizona fits.
Not only is Moore picking Belmont to upset Arizona, he is also predicting a Sweet 16 for the Bruins with a victory over New Mexico.
ESPN: Myron Medcalf
Medcalf is predicting an Arizona loss in his 10 Bold Predictions column on ESPN.com, he is also predicting that the entire Pac-12 loses their first game—that’s bold.
The league can prove its worth with a strong showing in the NCAA tournament. But I think it’ll do the opposite and struggle throughout its brief stay in March Madness. I could see the Pac-12 losing its five first-round matchups. Yep. Sounds crazy, I know. But Minnesota has the athleticism and strength inside to upset UCLA. I don’t think Oregon is better than Oklahoma State. I think Anthony Bennett will lead UNLV to a win over Cal, even though the game will be played in San Jose. Illinois will get hot and torch Colorado. And Belmont is a tough mid-major that won’t be intimidated in its upset over Arizona. That’s an 0-5 tally for that league.
Matt Norlander: CBS Sports
CBS Sports.com Eye on College Basketball has listed the Arizona v. Belmont game one of the Five Absolute Must-See Matchups
Belmont has been a chic upset pick in many of its recent appearances. But it has never been seeded as high as this year, and now I have to believe this is Rick Byrd’s moment. His two-guard attack of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson are going to give fits to Arizona’s uneven backcourt. Belmont’s not a big team, but it is the best one on defense Byrd’s ever had.
Arizona’s just out of sorts. It’s talented but hasn’t fully come into form this year. Most times, I think trendy upset picks of the 11/6 and 12/5 variety need to be avoided. Not here. Expect a really good game to go Belmont’s way.
This is also a prediction that I don’t put much stock as he also claims the Michigan v. South Dakota State is going to be a close one and doesn’t pick a winner in the game, merely stating “don’t assume too much.”
Yahoo! Sports: Jeff Eisenberg
Yahoo! Sports’ analyst Jeff Eisenberg, writing for The Dagger, predicts Ohio State to win the West Region and calls for No. 4 Kansas State to be upset.
He doesn’t think Belmont will upset the ‘Cats but labels the matchup “The most intriguing.”
The past two seasons, Belmont has entered the NCAA tournament as a trendy opening-round upset pick only fall quietly at the hands of Wisconsin and Georgetown. The OVC champion Bruins are hoping to have more success this March against an Arizona team that limped into the NCAA tournament, going 5-5 in its last 10 games after a 20-2 start. What will be especially interesting about this game is seeing if Arizona limit Belmont’s perimeter-heavy offense and if the Bruins can hold Arizona’s frontcourt in check. The dribble penetration of Kerron Johnson and the outside shooting of Ian Clark should give Arizona problems, but Belmont may struggle to match up with the Wildcats’ size inside.
Bryan Fischer of Pac-12.com doesn’t sound sold on the Wildcats’ chances either:
It’s a really tough draw for the Wildcats as they open with an excellent shooting team in Belmont. The Bruins are 4th in the country in field goal percentage and rank in the top 15 in points scored. That means defense will be a key factor in advancing further in March. Nick Johnson and several others looked like they were re-energized in the Pac-12 tournament and Sean Miller will likely need even more on both ends of the floor. Stopping guard Ian Clark will be a big thing for Arizona, who draw a very tough match up in their opening round game.
Bruins have beaten the Wildcats three times this season already, could there be a fourth?
Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports Eye on College Basketball lists Belmont as one of 10 non-BCS teams to watch:
Is this the year the Bruins break through and finally live to their reputation as a perennial upset selection? They have the right matchup for it, as they can force turnovers and knock down 3-pointers – and Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark have the ability to really make life difficult for Mark Lyons and Arizona. Coach Rick Byrd has a deep and experienced roster, and they might win a game.
Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette lists Belmont over Arizona as his West Region Upset Special
No. 11 Belmont (26-6) against No. 6 Arizona (25-7). The Wildcats are one year away and they have very few quality wins after Jan. 1. Belmont is always a team that is scary as the Bruins are athletic and feature a go-to guy in Ian Clark (18.1 ppg).