Arizona picked up its sixth No. 1 NCAA tournament seed in program history on Sunday, and longtime Wildcats fans probably know what that means.
One, that history suggests their opener Friday against Weber State should be a gimme, because a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed and because Arizona has never beaten a No. 16 by fewer than 29 points.
And two, that the Wildcats should be much more concerned about that second game, which they lost as a No. 1 seed in 2000 to Wisconsin and needed double overtime to win against Gonzaga in 2003.
Of course, that’s not the way Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller looked at it, saying the focus for his team has to be internal and set on nothing else but playing well Friday.
“If you focus on anything else,” Miller said, “you’re just gone. It’s over. You’re on spring break.”
But maybe, just maybe, the Wildcats do actually want to look a little bit ahead this time. You know, to that second game, where national analysts were already suggesting Sunday that Oklahoma State would knock off the Wildcats in the second game.
By looking there, the Wildcats can find some motivation to keep them on edge this week. Just in case they need some.
“Oklahoma State is a dangerous, dangerous team,” CBS’s Clark Kellogg said.
On ESPN, analyst Jay Bilas said facing the Cowboys would be “a nightmarish scenario for Arizona. … You’re talking about a superior athletic team that can get up and down. I think that’s a very difficult draw, a very difficult matchup.”
Fellow ESPN analyst Digger Phelps went so far as to say Oklahoma State could win the West Region while Kellogg went with Wisconsin.
It was reminiscent of how the words “Belmont’s gonna take down Arizona!” were shouted on the CBS Selection Show a year ago, and when an ESPN.com analysis calculated that Belmont had a 46.8 percent chance of an upset in the opener in Salt Lake City.
Arizona won that game 81-64, by the way.
The way Miller spoke during his McKale Center briefing Sunday, having doubters never hurts.
“Last year most people thought we were going to lose to Belmont,” Miller said. “When I was at Xavier, they thought we were located in Louisiana. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is what we do is just win. It’s not about talking. It’s not about predicting. …
“We focus on what we can control. The emotional tie of it all can pull you in so many different directions. What’s so important for us is to be the most ready we can be on Friday.”
So, although UA players were not available for comment and aren’t scheduled to be until Thursday, Miller talked about Weber State’s three-point shooting (39.2 percent) and the tough time his brother’s Dayton team had against them last season, when the Ogden, Utah-based Wildcats upset the Flyers in Dayton 62-61.
“In talking to my brother, they’re an extremely well-coached team with a skilled group of players,” Miller said, adding that leading scorer Davion Berry is “certainly a special guard and probably one of the reasons they’re here in the NCAA tournament.”
It should also help Arizona that it has six days to recover from their Pac-12 tournament loss to UCLA before having to play Friday. They were scheduled to take today off and will have workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving for the NCAA-mandated news conference and open shoot-around on Thursday in San Diego.
It also helps that, unlike their far-flung and lengthy journeys around the Pac-12, the Wildcats will only have to travel to San Diego this week. And then, if they get past Weber State and either Oklahoma State or Gonzaga, they will merely return to Anaheim, Calif., next week for the West Region semifinals and final.
“We have to take advantage of San Diego, not traveling far, and have as good a performance as we can,” Miller said. “Everything we did in Vegas will only empower us — having played three games in three days and a great game (against UCLA) in which we pulled up short. That will help us prepare for what’s to come because of the high level it was played at.”