LAS VEGAS — Arizona Wildcats freshman Aaron Gordon is ready to present a pretty good case to the NCAA tournament selection committee, but he really doesn’t have to.
Even with a 75-71 loss to UCLA in the final of the Pac-12 tournament on Saturday, the Wildcats are widely expected to receive a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed when the selections are announced today.
“We’re 30-4, and we were right in there with this game,” Gordon said. “We won the (Preseason) NIT. Won our conference. We have a lot of big wins. We’re one of the best defensive teams in the nation. What we’ve done has been well deserved.”
He has a point. Because of all that, there is no bubble for the Wildcats today. No wondering what region they’ll play in, nor what first-weekend pod they’ll be a part of. No wondering which day they’ll play, either.
When the selections are announced today at 3 p.m., barring a major surprise, Arizona is expected earn its first No. 1 NCAA tournament seed since 2003.
The Wildcats are also expected to play in the West Region, probably with an opening game against a low-major automatic qualifier Friday in San Diego.
If they win two games in San Diego, the Wildcats would advance to a Sweet 16 game in Anaheim, Calif., on March 27.
So for UA, basically, it’s expected to be a SoCal road to the Final Four. That’s the reward for busting through the regular season with only three losses and winning one of the toughest conferences in the country.
The only question really may be whether there is a potential spoiler sitting in that 8-9 bracket in San Diego, where the winner would likely face Arizona next Sunday.
There was a spoiler the last two times the Wildcats were a No. 1 seed, both times in Salt Lake City. In 2000, Arizona was upset by Dick Bennett’s defensive-minded, eighth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in the second round.
And in 2003, ninth-seeded Gonzaga took the Wildcats to double overtime before UA hung on for a 96-95 win.
Overall, it’s the least suspense the Wildcats have faced entering Selection Sunday since probably 1998, when the defending national champions were a lock as a No. 1 seed after going 17-1 in Pac-10 play.
But, just in case, guard T.J. McConnell wasn’t quite pronouncing it a done deal as a No. 1 seed.
“If we are, great,” Mc-
Connell said. “If not, that’s all right, too. We’re just ready for next week. It doesn’t really matter.”