Sunday, March 17, 2013
I've saved you all the trouble, folks: it's a 770-mile drive from McKale Center to the EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, where Arizona faces Belmont Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats (25-7) earned a No. 6 seed in the West Region, while Belmont (26-6) earned a No. 11 seed by virtue of winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament last weekend.
For those who know little about Belmont — don't feel bad, most people don't — the Bruins are in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in the last eight seasons. The previous five visits were by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference, but this year they moved into the OVC and took it down on the first try.
Belmont's wins this year include ones over Stanford and Oral Roberts (teams Arizona beat this year) and fellow 2013 NCAA qualifiers Middle Tennessee State and South Dakota State.
If Arizona were to get past Belmont on Thursday (game time is 4:20 p.m., and it will be shown on TNT) it is likely the Wildcats would face an old nemesis: New Mexico. The Lobos (29-5) are the No. 3 seed after winning the Mountain West title, and they face No. 14 Harvard on Thursday.
Arizona was one of five Pac-12 Conference teams to make the tourney, but collectively the league got bitch-slapped in terms of seeding. Oregon, which beat UCLA for the conference title Saturday night in Las Vegas, only got a No. 12 seed. That's the same seed that California got — though the Golden Bears amazingly got a near-home game by playing No. 5 UNLV in San Jose — while Colorado got a No. 10 seed and UCLA got a No. 6 seed.
Other seedings and pairings of interest for Tucsonans: Josh Pastner's Memphis team, after winning another Conference USA title, got a No. 6 seed, while UA transfer Momo Jones' Iona Gaels are a No. 15 seed after winning the MAAC championship.
The 68-team tournament gets underway in earnest on Tuesday when a pair of so-called 'First Four' games are held in Dayton: Middle Tennessee State plays St. Mary's and Liberty faces North Carolina A&T.