2016 NCAA tournament team previews: Arizona Wildcats
As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 25-8 (12-6 Pac-12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency:
Seed: South No. 6
Impact Player: Ryan Anderson, senior, forward. 15.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 54.7 FG%
The Case For: Haven’t we learned to trust Sean Miller? One of the game’s brightest young coaches and a defensive witch doctor, Miller has taken his program to the Sweet 16 the last three seasons and the Elite Eight the past two.
This is arguably Miller’s best coaching job. His players might not be overly talented, but they’re mentally tough. Their resiliency has been impressive, like a come-from-behind 68-63 win at Gonzaga on Dec. 5, and a frantic comeback in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals against eventual champion Oregon last Friday, where they pushed the Ducks to overtime before falling, 95-89.
Senior center Kaleb Tarczewski has lots of tournament experience, and freshman guard Allonzo Trier (15.0 ppg), when healthy, has been tough to stop. Senior forward Ryan Anderson (15.5 ppg) and senior guard Gabe York (15.2) give Arizona a balanced scoring attack. And the Wildcats rank 31st nationally in effective field goal percentage on both ends of the floor. If the players can properly execute the strong gameplans Miller will no doubt prepare, Arizona could be headed for another deep run.
The Case Against: Star power is important in the NCAA tournament, and the Wildcats don’t have much of it. York (42.5% from three) is their best big-shot option, and he got hot during last year’s tournament, but that’s a lot easier when you’re the fifth or sixth option. Seven-footer Tarczewski averages close to a double-double (9.4 points and 9.3 rebounds) but doesn’t score inside as much as you’d expect for someone with his height advantage.
Arizona also is not quite as fearsome as it has been defensively. Teams shoot 41.3% against the Wildcats, compared to 39.8% last season and 38.1% in 2013-14. Matchups are the most important part of the postseason, and Arizona could be vulnerable against teams that can penetrate. Guards that spread out the Wildcats and attack the rim usually score or get fouled (just ask Oregon, which beat UA in both Tucson and the Pac-12 tournament by doing exactly that).
While Arizona doesn’t have any bad losses, it also doesn’t have any overly impressive wins. The Wildcats' best wins were probably against Gonzaga on the road and Cal at home. That’s not saying much.
SI Prediction: Beat Wichita State in the first round; beat Miami in the second round; beat Villanova in the Sweet 16, lose to Kansas in the Elite 8.