This is Belmont’s third NCAA Tournament appearance in a row. They have yet to win a tournament game, but have come very close.
Arizona was once ranked third in the country, but have looked pedestrian at times. It makes sense that people would write Belmont’s name in as an upset.
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The Arizona Wildcats were ranked high in every preseason poll. They looked the part until the beginning of the Pac-12 schedule. They played well against most of the conference, but struggled against the top teams. The Wildcats lost to the Bruins three times and failed to beat Oregon.
Arizona does have two marquee non-conference neutral site wins (Miami, San Diego State), but those came at the beginning of the season. They have a collection of great talent, but they recently haven’t played well. If forward Solomon Hill and guards Mark Lynons and Nick Johnson play to their skill level, Arizona could play with the best teams in the country.
The Belmont Bruins enjoyed their first season in the Ohio Valley Conference. They swept the regular season and conference championships. The problem is they didn’t play a tough schedule. They were 1-2 against tournament teams, with their only win coming at home against South Dakota State.
There’s no denying that Belmont is one of the most efficient teams in the country. Their team field goal percentage ranks fourth in the country (.494). Like many other mid-major teams, they love to shoot the three-point shot. The best shooter is guard Ian Clark. He has hit 99 three and shoots 46% from behind the arc.
Clark isn’t the only Belmont player who loves three-pointers. Bruins’ guard J.J. Mann can also fall in love with his shot, but unfortunately he isn’t as accurate. If Arizona takes an early lead, Mann might get trigger-happy…which would most certainly favor the Wildcats.
If Belmont starts to force shots, Arizona will win the game easily. Belmont is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country and Arizona excels at it.
I know it’s “sexy” to pick Belmont as a sleeper, but I don’t see it. Arizona plays well against unfamiliar teams. Every team in the Pac-12 have scouted each other to the bone. Teams out of the Pac-12 historically do well in the NCAA Tournament, even if they had a few bad losses in conference play. I’m picking Arizona based on their rebounding ability and overall talent level.
Prediction: #6 Arizona Wildcats
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