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Count on the Arizona Wildcats to surprise in March Madness

March Madness is the best time of the year for a college basketball fan, because 64 of the best teams in college basketball battle it out to see who is crowned the NCAA National Champion.

The tournament opened on March 19 with several upsets. In the West Region, No. 14 seed Georgia State Panthers used a 13-0 run to stun the No.3 Baylor Bears 57-56, and in the South Region, No.14 seed University of Alabama-Birmingham surprised Iowa State, who many believed had the talent to make it to the Final Four based on how hot they were during the regular season, 60-59.

Before the tournament started, experts predicted a Final Four of Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin, and Virginia, with many having Kentucky winning it all to finish a perfect 40-0 on the season.

I disagree. While Kentucky is very talented, I believe the Arizona Wildcats are going to be national champions. Arizona finished as regular season and conference tournament champions in the Pac-12 with a record of 31-3. The height and overall athleticism of many Arizona players means the team is one of the few that can compete with the Kentucky Wildcats.

Arizona has come so close to making the Final Four in the last couple of years, losing to Wisconsin at the buzzer a year ago in the Elite Eight, and to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 two years ago. This time the Wildcats got their revenge, beating the Ohio State Buckeyes 73-58 to get into the Sweet 16.

Arizona doesn’t have as many NBA prospects as Kentucky has, but they do have athletic wings in Brandon Ashley, Rondae-Hollis-Jefferson, and Stanley Johnson; Johnson can flat-out score and is a walking highlight reel. Point guard T.J. McConnell (who scored 19 points to lead the Wildcats in the win against the Buckeyes) is as good as anybody in the country, and won’t get scared off by Kentucky’s ball-hawking defenders. Head coach Sean Miller is a defensive specialist, and employs a suffocating defense that repeatedly forces opponents into turnovers and low-percentage shots, and Hollis-Jefferson is one of the best defenders because of his seven-foot wingspan.

Going through the West Region, Arizona won’t have the easiest path to the Final Four, as they have the possibility of playing powerhouses North Carolina and Wisconsin. With the sour taste of last year’s defeat in the Elite Eight still on their minds, the Wildcats, led by a winning head coach and several veteran players, have the talent and drive to win it all.

On Thursday there is sure to be a lot of emotion, as the Wildcats take on the No. 6 seed Xavier Musketeers in Los Angeles. Before taking the job at Arizona, head coach Sean Miller, used to be the head coach at Xavier, and current Xavier head coach Chris Mack was an assistant under Miller.


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Count on the Arizona Wildcats to surprise in March Madness