The Arizona Wildcats' Pac-12 Tournament championship has paved them a favorable path to the Phoenix Final Four.
During today's NCAA Tournament selections, the Wildcats were awarded the West Region’s No. 2 seed, a first-round date with North Dakota on Thursday in Salt Lake City and an entire tournament path within the Pac-12 footprint.
If UA wins the 6:50 p.m. opener, broadcast on TBS, the Wildcats will face the winner between Saint Mary's and VCU in the second round on Saturday.
Staying in the West Region means the Wildcats, if they win their first two games, will only have to shift from Salt Lake City to San Jose, Calif., for the second weekend -- and they just might get another shot at Gonzaga in an Elite Eight game there.
Gonzaga, which is the West's No. 1 seed, beat Arizona 69-62 on Dec. 3 in Los Angeles, when UA was still without suspended wing Allonzo Trier.
But first, if Arizona beats North Dakota and either Saint Mary's or VCU in Utah, the Wildcats will need to win a Sweet 16 game against either Maryland, Xavier, Florida State or Florida Gulf Coast on March 23 in San Jose.
Arizona beat Xavier, the program UA coach Sean Miller left in 2009 to take over the Wildcats, in the 2015 Sweet 16 at Los Angeles.
The Wildcats’ Pac-12 Tournament championship win over Oregon on Saturday put them in the West and moved them ahead of the Ducks (No. 3 in Midwest) and UCLA (No. 3 in South) as the Pac-12’s top seeding priority.
As of the committee’s Feb. 11 bracket reveal, Oregon was ranked ahead of UA and the Ducks hadn’t lost since then until the Wildcats beat them in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, chairman of this year's selection committee, said on CBS' selection show that UA was "another team that moved up considerably during the week," indicating the Wildcats might have been on the three or four seed line and in another region.
Oregon, meanwhile, descended in the committee's eyes because of Saturday's game and also because they lost forward Chris Boucher to a torn ACL. The selection committee downgrades teams who lose key players for the tournament.
Both the Ducks and Bruins will get to stay close to home in Sacramento, Calif., for the first weekend at least: Oregon will open against Iona while UCLA will face Kent State in a separate pod on Friday.
USC, meanwhile, barely made the tournament field, getting assigned a play-in game against Providence in Tulsa, Okla. Cal did not make the field, leaving the Pac-12 with only four tournament teams.
Arizona has reached the Sweet 16 four of the five times they have made the NCAA Tournament under coach Sean Miller. They did not make the 2010 or 2012 tourney fields.