Mar 18, 2024 - News

Cats snag 2-seed and will face Long Beach State in first round of March Madness

A basketball player drives against a defender.

Wildcats guard Caleb Love drives to the basket Saturday against Oregon. Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

March Madness is back! And the Arizona Wildcats are looking to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, which begins this week.

The big picture: The Cats are a 2-seed in the West region, and will play 15-seed Long Beach State in the first round Thursday.

  • UofA got a 2-seed despite a disappointing showing in the Pac-12 tournament.
  • The Oregon Ducks upset the Cats in the conference tournament semifinals Friday, costing UofA a final Pac-12 championship before the conference disintegrates and they join the Big 12.
  • It would've been Arizona's third straight conference championship in head coach Tommy Lloyd's third year in Tucson.

State of play: The top seed in the West is the North Carolina Tar Heels, which, like UofA, fell flat in their conference tournament, losing to unranked North Carolina State in the ACC tournament.

The intrigue: Long Beach State has Cinderella written all over it.

  • The Beach ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak and finished fifth in the Big West Conference, then rallied to win the conference tournament after the school informed head coach Dan Monson he was being let go after 17 years leading the program.

Grand Canyon University earned a tournament spot after beating UT-Arlington to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

  • The 12-seeded Lopes will play Friday against 5-seed Saint Mary's, which won the West Coast Conference tournament.
  • GCU and UofA are both in the West region, so theoretically they could face each other in the Elite Eight.

Plus: Nebraska-based Creighton, which has a major presence in the Valley, earned a 3-seed and will play 14-seed Akron on Thursday.

Reality check: The Sun Devils will miss the tournament after a disappointing season.

  • ASU notched a 14-18 record and got knocked out in the first round of the conference tourney by Utah.
  • NAU also won't reprise its 2023 March Madness appearance.

Flashback: UofA's high hopes last year ended in one of the biggest upsets in March Madness history when the 2-seeded Wildcats lost to 15-seed Princeton.

  • That made UofA the only team in NCAA to lose two first-round games as a 2-seed.

Zoom out: If this year's brackets are any indication, the Cats and Sun Devils will have their work cut out for them in the Big 12 next basketball season.

  • The Big 12 has eight teams in the tournament, including 1-seed Houston, 2-seed Iowa State, 3-seed Baylor (which is in UofA's region in this year's tournament) and 4-seed Kansas.
  • Arizona, Oregon and Washington State will represent the Pac-12 in its final season before it dissolves, along with Colorado, which faces Boise State in a Wednesday play-in game for one of the 10-seed spots.

In the women's tournament, UofA is Arizona's only representative in the brackets, though the Cats will have to win a play-in game to reach the field of 64.

  • The Cats will play Auburn on Thursday to determine who's the 11-seed in the Portland 3 region.
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