March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State

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Arizona Wildcats 30-4, 15-3
Even without one of their top players in Brandon Ashley, who suffered a season-ending injury in a loss to California, the Wildcats come in as capable of winning it all as any team in the field. They played the seventh toughest schedule and boast the top RPI. Against the RPI top 50 they went 10-2, with only one loss outside of that, to the aforementioned Cal. They have one of the best frontlines in all of college basketball with Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but senior guard Nick Johnson was the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Solid rebounding, defense and modest scoring are a given from their young frontline; it could be the play of Johnson and junior guard T.J. McConnell in the backcourt that makes or breaks the Wildcats’ championship aspirations. The Wildcats don’t look to do much damage from beyond the arc, making just five threes a game, among the worst in the field. They’re also a very poor free throw shooting team, making just 65.9 percent of their attempts. They’ve rarely hurt the Wildcats this season, but those are two scary weaknesses to have in a win-or-go-home setting. In order for them to even become a factor, though, you have to be able to score against their stifling defense that allowed just 58 points a contest and be able to rebound against three future pros inside.

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Weber State Wildcats 19-11, 14-6
With All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, their most famous alumni, in attendance the Wildcats punched their 15th ticket to the NCAA Tournament by defeating North Dakota in the Big Sky conference tournament championship. The Wildcats, who also won the Big Sky regular season championship, are dancing for the first time since 2007, a feat they failed to accomplish during Lillard’s four years with the program. Senior guard Davion Berry has been stellar in his second year as a Wildcat after transferring over from Cal State Monterey Bay. He’s averaging 19.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and four assists a contest for a Wildcats team that scores 72.9 on average. Sophomore forward Joel Bolomboy is a blue collar big man with a ton of potential. He’s already a top five rebounder, grabbing 10.8 a night. While size is a problem for a lot of mid-majors in the program, the Wildcats not only have the 6’9 Bolomboy but 6’10, 240 lbs. senior center Kyle Tresnak as well. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule was ranked 262nd and all of their wins came against teams outside of the RPI top 150. Their lone chances for quality wins were at BYU, an 81-72 loss, and at UCLA, where they were defeated 83-60. Pulling off an upset is going to be a daunting task for the Wildcats, especially with their inability to win the turnover battle, which they lost by 3.2 on gamely basis.