Previewing the NCAA Tournament second-round games in Salt Lake City

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 10:54 p.m. MDT

No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Belmont Next » 3 of 4 « Prev
by Andrew Aragon
Deseret News

The Arizona Wildcats are back in the NCAA Tournament after a rare miss last season, but they aren't exactly putting fear into the postseason field.

The Wildcats, who were ranked as high as No. 3 earlier this season, were awarded just a No. 6 seed in the West Regional. Arizona will face a dangerous No. 11 seed, Belmont, the Ohio Valley Conference champions, in a second-round tournament game in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

Arizona is limping into the big dance, losing three of its last four games while going 5-5 in its last 10 contests. Inconsistent play on defense and at point guard has hampered the Wildcats. Arizona's 3-point defense isn't good, and the team just so happens to be opening the tournament against a club that can consistently bury 3-pointers.

Belmont's sharpshooters include Ian Clark, who averages 18.1 points per game and shoots 46.3 percent from 3-point range. Center Trevor Noack shoots 41.8 percent from 3-point range and averages 12.5 points per game.

Belmont is making its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance and features a group of seniors who have won four regular season conference championships and three conference tourney titles. The Bruins played in the Ohio Valley Conference for the first time this year.

While Belmont is seasoned and could be a popular upset pick among bracketologists, the Wildcats are tough when they play to their potential. Arizona has the edge over Belmont in talent, size and athleticism. And if the Wildcats can play with as much fire as their coach, Sean Miller, showed toward officials in his team's loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament and in his ensuing postgame press conference, they'll be poised to advance.

Arizona did not reach the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in 19 seasons last year. Belmont is making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 but has yet to win a tournament game.

This will be the first meeting between Arizona and Belmont.

BELMONT (26-6) vs. ARIZONA (25-7)

Thursday, approx. 5:20 p.m. MT, TNT

The Bruins: They can put points up in a hurry, scoring an average of 77.2 per game. They have a well-respected coach in Rick Byrd, and feature a dynamic score in Ian Clark. … best wins: Stanford, Middle Tennessee, Ohio … worst losses: Northeastern, Tennessee State

The Wildcats: Mark Lyons is their top scorer at 14.8 points per game, but Solomon Hill is their best player. Arizona isn't peaking at the right time of the season, going just 5-5 in its last 10 games, but could still make a tourney run. … best wins: Miami, Florida, San Diego State … worst loss: USC

Utah connection: Arizona swept the Utah Utes in Pac-12 games this season, but had a difficult time doing so. The Wildcats beat Utah by a combined seven points in two victories, almost going to overtime in Arizona when the Utes' Jarred DuBois missed a 3-pointer as time expired in a 60-57 win.
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