All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big East
Date: Thursday, March 26
Time: 5:15 pm Eastern
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Xavier beat an 11-seed and a 14-seed; now they meet a 2-seed.
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #2 Strength: #23
Median play: #3 Median play: #21
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#2 Sagarin: #22
Pomeroy: #2 Pomeroy: #23
Offense: #7 Offense: #21
Defense: #3 Defense: #58
LRMC: #2* LRMC: #19*
BPI: #3 BPI: #26
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #1 2nd half/season: #24
Last 6 games: #3 Last 6 games: #19
Consistency: #236 Consistency: #179
Arizona is either #2 or #3 in a given power rating, and is #1 since mid-January. If any team is going to knock off Kentucky, these Wildcats might have the best shot, but they have to avoid getting upset themselves.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (12): UC Irvine+17, =San Diego St.+2, Gonzaga+OT, @Oregon+18, Utah+18, Oregon+34, UCLA+10, @Utah+6, =UCLA+6, =Oregon+28, =Texas Southern+21, =Ohio St.+15
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (5): Gonzaga+OT, Utah+18, UCLA+10, @Utah+6, =UCLA+6
- Losses to tournament teams (0): none
- Other losses (3): @UNLV-4, @Oregon St.-2, @Arizona St.-3
Key Info: Arizona went 10-0 against tournament-bound foes, pretty impressive. But they had three losses against non-tourney opponents, all three on the road and against teams that ranked 92, 105, and 62 in Strength. Since the last loss the Wildcats have been on a roll, winning every game by double digits except for 6-points wins at Utah and vs. UCLA—both of whom made the Sweet Sixteen along with the Wildcats.
Freshman Stanley Johnson leads four key scorers at 14.1 points and adds 6.6 rebounds, while Brandon Ashley, who missed the 2nd half of last season, is #2 with 12.3 points. But against Texas Southern it was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson leading with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while #4 scorer TJ McConnell and reserve Gabe York were the key players vs. Ohio State, scoring 19 apiece.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (10): Stephen F. Austin+18, Georgetown+17, @Georgetown+13, Providence+9, @Cincinnati+2, Butler+17, =Butler+OT, =Georgetown+2, =Mississippi+19, =Georgia St.+8
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (0): none
- Losses to tournament teams (7): @Butler-12, @Villanova-13, @Providence-OT, St. John's-8, @St. John's-1, Villanova-12, =Villanova-17
- Other losses (6): =UTEP-4, =Long Beach St.-3, @Auburn-OT, @DePaul-3, @Seton Hall-8, Creighton-OT
Key Info: Xavier played some of their best basketball early, beating tournament-bound Stephen F. Austin 81-63 and should've-been-tournament-bound Murray State 89-62. But they managed to lose to UTEP and Long Beach State in the Wooden Legacy tournament, and then Auburn before the Big East schedule started. Once in conference, they were even-steven against tournament teams, going 7-7. The Musketeers beat Butler twice and Georgetown thrice, while losing to Villanova three times and St. John's two more. And they continued to lose to bad teams, falling to DePaul, Seton Hall (during the Pirates' slide), and Creighton. Yet in the end they were the last Big East team standing, the only one to make the Sweet Sixteen.
Xavier has very balanced scoring—that is, no standouts—but that makes for an efficient offense; 6-10 center Matt Stainbrook leads with 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds. He upped that to 20 in the win against the Rebels. But against Georgia State, Jalen Reynolds and Myles Davis came off the bench to combine for 38 points in the win.
Game Analysis: Arizona just wiped out Ohio State, a very good team. Xavier took care of business against Georgia State, an overachieving 14-seed.
The upset bug hit 2-seeds Virginia and Kansas, as well as 1-seed Villanova. So Arizona isn't a shoo-in to make the Elite Eight. But unless they get overconfident, they really should have a break with this game. Xavier isn't as good as the team they just beat, and there are few areas in which they can challenge the Wildcats.
The Musketeers don't shoot the 3 well, but they are great on 2-pointers with their height inside. Arizona counters their twin 6-10 centers with two 7-0 centers, however. And for all that height, they don't rebound that well offensively, while Arizona is the #1 defensive rebounding team. Xavier had better make their first attempts if they want to stay in the game.
Arizona by 10 1/2
Power rating: spread
Arizona by 9.0
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
The Vegas line stands a bit beyond the Strength power rating's estimate. The game-comparison system makes the Wildcats around a 3:1 favorite, a bit shy of the historical 79% won by 2-seeds over 6-seeds. Ironically, it matches the 1-seed vs. 6-seed odds (1-seeds have won 6 of 8), and Arizona more closely resembles a 1-seed anyway.
Bottom line: We think Arizona is looking for a rematch with Wisconsin, and probably not in the sense that they're looking ahead, but that they're going to make sure they get there. Xavier won't stand in their way.
Final prediction: Arizona 75, Xavier 60
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.