Arizona Now Second-Favorite To Kentucky In NCAA Tournament
Three of the four top seeds made it through the first two rounds of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, with only Villanova being vanquished in the Round of 32. To no surprise, unbeaten and top-ranked Kentucky remains the even-money overall favorite at Bovada following double-digits wins over No. 16 Howard and No. 8 Cincinnati. Kentucky is the first team to ever go 36-0 in college basketball history and is another big favorite for the Sweet 16 against West Virginia even though Bob Huggins is 8-2 in his career against John Calipari.
Cats Vs. Cats In Final Four?
The new second favorite for the Big Dance is No. 2 seed Arizona at 13/2 and the Cats are 11-ponit favorites for their Sweet 16 in the West Regional against No. 6 Xavier. Coach Sean Miller’s Wildcats had little trouble in their tournament opener with a win over Texas Southern. Then Miller had a chance to beat his good coaching buddy, Thad Matta, for the first time in three NCAA Tournament appearances on Saturday, when UA topped Ohio State 73-58.
Up next: Miller’s first-ever crack at his old program, Xavier, on Thursday at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, a home-away-from-home for the Wildcats. And, a UA win Thursday would set up a chance for revenge on Saturday against Wisconsin (if the Badgers beat North Carolina). Wisconsin edged UA in overtime in the West Regional final last year. Xavier coach Chris Mack worked under Miller with the Musketeers from 2004-09 — and was named head coach in part because Miller recommended him when he left for Arizona in April 2009.
Only two teams in the country are in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. One of them is Kentucky. The other is Arizona. It's is a well-rounded team that can win in multiple ways, and that’s crucial for any team that makes a run to the Final Four. With wings Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Wildcats have two of the best players remaining in the tournament, as well as two potential first-round picks (Johnson will be a lottery pick) in June’s NBA draft. Arizona is very good inside the arc offensively, ranking 19th in the country in two-point percentage.
On the negative side, Arizona's 33 wins are impressive but its' three losses—to non-tournament teams UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State—remain concerning. They’ll be stepping up in weight class against both Xavier and the Wisconsin/North Carolina winner. Arizona would likely face Kentucky in the Final Four.
Blue Devils, Badgers To Collide?
The other top seeds remaining, Duke and Wisconsin, are the 8/1 third-favorites and they appear on a collision course on the other side of the bracket. No. 5 West Virginia, No. 6 Xavier and No. 11 UCLA, which faces Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, are the 100/1 long shots to win the tournament.
Kentucky is 1/4 to win the West Region, Arizona 5/6 to take the West, Duke 3/2 for the South and seventh-seeded Michigan State the surprise 7/4 favorite for the East Region, which has neither the No. 1 or No. 2 seed remaining. The Spartans face No. 3 Oklahoma on Friday night.
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