Pick – Analysis
A lot of people love this Arizona squad and some even projected them to be a 1-seed. Playing in Oregon against a Texas Southern team, the Wildcats should have most of the fan support, outside of the non-biased fans that always cheer for the upset.
Arizona is one of the biggest early-round favorites, but Texas Southern isn’t a team to take lightly even though they come out of the weak SWAC. The SWAC usually produces a 16-seed, so this shows a bit of respect to the Tigers for scheduling a tough non-Conference Schedule, as well as getting road wins at Michigan State and Kansas State. Sure, they lost by 40 points to Gonzaga and were handled easily by Eastern Washington, Indiana and Baylor, but they have the experience and dominated the SWAC all year long with a 16-2 record.
Despite only having three losses, Arizona probably didn’t get a 1-seed for not having a great non-Conference slate and playing in the weaker Pac-12. The Wildcats still took care of business against SDSU and Gonzaga, and carved through the Pac-12, outside of three random Conference road losses to less-than-average teams.
The Wildcats enter this one having won 11 straight Games, most of those being by double-digits, while the Tigers have won 11 straight as well, albeit against some of the worst teams in the country.
Texas Southern pulled those early-season upsets mainly because size wasn’t an issue against the smaller MSU and KSU teams. That won’t be the case against Arizona, and there’s a reason they lost by 40 to Gonzaga. Arizona has a huge team that will be able to attack down low at will. Texas Southern doesn’t have anyone listed above 6’9″ and their big guys aren’t used to playing a ton of minutes as it is.
The 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski will be a handful, even though the big man isn’t exactly a huge threat for the Wildcats. But that’s not where it ends. Brandon Ashley is a tough-to-guard power forward at 6’9″ that can stretch the floor with his shot, while the athleticism of 6’7″ forwards Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is trouble for anyone that plays Arizona. If Texas Southern decides to double team at all, T.J. McConnell and Gabe York can knockdown from deep.
On the other end, the Tigers have been led by a balanced attack, but if they want to stay close against Arizona they’ll have to catch fire from deep and Texas Southern only shoots 32% from three as a team. Everyone on their team is willing to shoot the trey, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Chris Thomas, Madarious Gibbs and Malcolm Riley will be Arizona’s main guys to watch out for.
Texas Southern gets to the line a ton (17th best in country) and that will have to work in this Game, in addition to shooting better than their 66.2% rate from the line. The Wildcats are mediocre in that department (17.9 fouls per Game, 154th best) so that will probably be an area Texas Southern can attack.
The trio of Thomas, Gibbs and Riley averaged 35 points per Game in the two wins over Michigan State and Kansas State, so stopping those guys will be key. Arizona is bigger than those teams and has a solid defense to go with it, so that will be an issue. This line is huge, but so are the Wildcats, which should be the main deciding factor in this one.