Sean Miller, famously, has never made a Final Four. He coached Arizona to a No. 1 seed and the Elite Eight three years ago and lost an epic to Wisconsin. He coached Arizona to a No. 2 seed and the Elite Eight two years ago and lost another great game to ... Wisconsin. But the Badgers aren’t in this bracket. Arizona has Markkanen, Trier, a promising young point guard in Kobi Simmons and a supreme glue guy in Kadeem Allen. The metrics don’t love the Wildcats, but I do. Talented enough to flirt with the Final Four, coached well enough to get them over the edge.
- Matt Norlander, CBS Sports
As a head coach, Sean Miller has reached the Elite Eight four times. The first two were pleasant surprises, one at Xavier in 2008 and then at Arizona in 2011. The third was heartbreaking because the best-in-show Wildcats had their 2014 season damaged by an injury to forward Brandon Ashley. And the fourth time in 2015, Arizona was re-matched against Wisconsin in the regional final and just couldn’t contain a Badgers breakout from 3-point range. This seems like the moment all that becomes history.
- Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
In theory, Arizona should be preparing for a Sweet 16 date with Florida State and superb freshman Jonathan Isaac. Isaac, along with second-team All-ACC pick Dwayne Bacon and All-ACC-Defensive Team selection Xavier Rathan-Mayes form the backbone of a tough out for any team.
But don’t sleep on FSU’s first-round opponent, No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles were a tournament darling in 2013 and this deep team (five players average at least nine points) is ready to repeat “Dunk City’s” improbable Sweet 16 run. Throw in the instate-rivalry factor, and this is clearly one of the must-watch matchups of the early rounds.
- Jacob Thorpe, Spokesman Review
The Bulldogs will win the national championship because they're the best team in the field. In the West Region, the top squad blocking their path to the Final Four is an Arizona team Gonzaga defeated by seven points on Dec. 3. Myron, that was months ago! Allonzo Trier didn't play! With 15:09 to go in that game, however, Gonzaga led by 16 points. The Bulldogs didn't beat Arizona. They smacked Arizona. Iowa State, Florida and Saint Mary's (three times), too.
- Myron Medcalf, ESPN
Our predictions give Arizona and Florida State the best chances of emerging from them, with the Wildcats boasting a 39 percent probability of making the Elite Eight.
And if Gonzaga can survive that potential matchup with West Virginia or Notre Dame, the Bulldogs will have to clear one last hurdle to reach the Final Four, whether it be Arizona, FSU or even their longtime West Coast Conference rival, Saint Mary’s. The Zags should be favored against any of the three; without having played a game, our model considers them 41 percent favorites to move on to Phoenix. Those odds will only increase if they make it to the Elite 8.
Bracket tip: Avoid getting in the way of an Arizona train aiming for a Final Four in Arizona.
A pattern is developing here: Sean Miller’s Wildcats have a habit of avenging disappointment. Arizona is 30-4 with losses to Butler, Gonzaga, Oregon and UCLA. The Wildcats got back at UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals and final, respectively.
Miller has stars: 7-foot freshman Lauri Markkanen of Finland is a projected 2017 NBA lottery pick with 6-5 sophomore guard Allonzo Trier going in the first round, too.
Depth? Nine guys average at least 12.6 minutes.
Spice? Miller, up 86-75 against UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals, called a timeout with 0.9 seconds left.
Just because UCLA’s Steve Alford called a timeout when the Bruins led 77-72 with less than two seconds left at Arizona.
- Gene Sapakoff, The Post and Courier
Gonzaga is the top seed, but Arizona has to be considered the favorite out West, if only because the Wildcats don't have that same gorilla on their backs the Zags are trying to overcome. Skepticism will follow Gonzaga around, in some circles, until it finally makes a Final Four. Also, Arizona has improved the final month of the regular season and is playing as well as any team in the country. Some believe Gonzaga plateaued in the weaker WCC, evidenced by its home loss to BYU late in the season.
- Jay Drew, Salt Lake Tribune
Gonzaga-Arizona is the game we want and need. It would mean one deserving coach – Mark Few or Sean Miller – finally breaks through and reaches the Final Four. It would mark either the ultimate validation of Gonzaga’s program, or vindication for a Pac-12 that hasn’t put a team in the Final Four since 2008. And it would be a heck of a game between two teams that enter the tourney a combined 62-5.
- Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports