The Arizona Wildcats went 25-8 this season. They won nine of their last 12 games, with one of the three losses coming in overtime against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona’s reward? A first round matchup with either Vanderbilt or Wichita State.
“Arizona was a 6-seed in what I’m calling the region of death, which is the South region,” CBS college basketball insider Jon Rothstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Any region that has Arizona as a 6-seed is going be absolutely brutal. Arizona was one free throw away from beating Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals last week in Las Vegas, and the fact that Oregon is a 1 and Arizona is a 6, that shows you how meaningless seeds are in this NCAA Tournament. If there’s one thing you have to prepare yourself for over the next couple weeks, it’s anarchy.”
Seton Hall – also 25-8 and also a 6-seed – is another team that has to be miffed at the selection committee. The Pirates have won 12 of their last 14 games and just knocked off No. 5 Xavier and No. 3 Villanova to win the Big East Championship.
Seton Hall is a 6-seed, while Xavier and Nova are 2s.
“Well, again though, we’re looking at Seton Hall based on what we saw at the end of the season and not the total body of work,” Rothstein said. “Seton Hall, again, they played well down the stretch, but they also lost a game to Long Beach State early in the year, and I agree with you about the matchup. Not only are they going to play Gonzaga in Denver, but they could play Utah in Denver and Utah is much more familiar with dealing with the altitude because it plays in the Pac-12. So it’s a difficult matchup for Seton Hall, but with that said, it’s fascinating because you have a team with great perimeter players in Seton Hall against a team with great front-court players in Gonzaga with (Kyle) Wiltjer (and Domantas) Sabonis.”
Going back to the South, fourth-seeded Cal (23-10) might have the most talented roster in the tournament, despite losing 10 games this season.
“When you look at Cal’s best five players in terms of overall talent – Ty Wallace, Ivan Rabb, Jaylen Brown, Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird – that always necessarily wasn’t their best team on the floor at the same time,” Rothstein said.
So, Cuonzo Martin moved Rabb, a 6-11 freshman, to power forward to give Cal a tough front line, and he played Kameroon Rooks, a sophomore 7-footer, in the middle.
“Cal became a better screening team, and they become a better defensive team,” Rothstein said. “They weren’t as good of a scoring team. But where Cal gets scary is when Cal goes a little smaller and they use Jaylen Brown at power forward.”
Brown, a 6-7, 225-pound freshman, averaged 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season.
“Jaylen Brown, other than Brandon Ingram, might be the best NBA prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft,” Rothstein said. “This team can play big or it can play small. If you’re a Maryland fan right now, you are sick to your stomach with the chance that you might have to play Cal to get to the Sweet 16.”
All in all, it should be a widely compelling tournament. If you’d like to play in the Tiki and Tierney Bracket Challenge, please visit http://tikiandtierneycbs.mayhem.cbssports.com/. The password is tikiandtierney.