Top-seeded Arizona could be tested in a lot of different ways in the West, with some grudging defensive styles as well as some high-octane offenses in the vein of the UCLA squad that brought down the Wildcats on Saturday.
The Gonzaga-Oklahoma State survivor would make for some intrigue with Arizona. Oke State is underseeded and averages 80.3 points a game, 22 more than Arizona allows. If the Zags advance, they offer the fifth-best shooting percentage in the country (49.8) and it would call to mind the two programs’ double-overtime, second-round NCAA matchup in 2003.
Fourth-seeded San Diego State allows the second-fewest points in the nation (56.6), and if the Aztecs and Wildcats each get through to the second weekend, it would be a rematch of Arizona’s 69-60 win four months ago in San Diego.
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By the numbers
1 In the region of superlatives, Arizona tops stats maven Ken Pomeroy’s defensive ratings at 86.9 points per 100 possessions and Wisconsin makes the nation’s fewest turnovers (8.2 a game).
5 Creighton’s Doug McDermott is No. 5 on the all-time scoring list with 3,105 points.
125 The difference between Oklahoma State’s turnovers committed and forced, a positive figure that’s 13th nationally.
ARIZONA: Defense travels, and Arizona has it in spades, pressuring the ball, helping, hedging and swarming passing lanes. The ‘Cats also rebound proficiently and they have the Pac-12 player of the year in guard Nick Johnson.
WISCONSIN: Under Bo Ryan, the Badgers don’t beat themselves. They’re second nationally in fewest fouls and they hit .747 on free throws.
OREGON: The Ducks have gunned up 635 threes and in an often frantic pace, they’ve averaged 81.8 points. Their lack of inside muscle probably is fatal, but they hung with Arizona on the road and beat the Wildcats in Eugene.
CREIGHTON: As a No. 3 seed, the Blue Jays wouldn’t be a shock if they make a run. And any team with the consensus best player in McDermott shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Jays must make threes, and at .427 nationally, they’re No. 1.
Headed for a fall?
BAYLOR: Bears were solid in 2013-14, somewhat shedding a mercurial image. But they get a Nebraska team that is seeking its first NCAA win.
Oke State’s Marcus Smart is one of the most highly scrutinized players of the season, mainly for shoving a Texas Tech fan Feb. 8 and drawing a three-game suspension. His tournament play will impact the discussion on whether forgoing the NBA last spring was a wise decision. Let’s recognize San Diego State point guard Xavier Thames, the transfer from Washington State who averages 16.9 points. His departure is a primary reason WSU coach Ken Bone’s future is doubtful.
In his fifth season, Arizona’s Sean Miller has the Wildcats perking despite the midseason loss of forward Brandon Ashley.
Best players you might not have heard of
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma: Spokane fans know the hustling Oklahoma forward well. He transferred from Gonzaga after the 2012 season, and averages 9.4 rebounds.
Taylor Braun, North Dakota State: The 6-7 forward is a career 42-percent three-point shooter who could be a problem for Oklahoma.
Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State: Whichever San Diego State defender gets him, he’ll know he’s a load. Bhullar, of Indian heritage by way of Toronto, is 7-5 and weighs 350 pounds.