"I thought there was a chance we could get a two seed," Lute Olson told KOLD television. "It was probably UConn and ourselves for the two. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference. Either way we're going to play against a good team and you need to be ready to play."
If the committee did indeed use an S-curve as it claims, then Arizona probably did just miss out on a two. According to the committee, Illinois was the top-ranked one-seed making the two seed in the region the lowest of the twos. Whether that was indeed Oklahoma State or UConn is up for debate. UConn could have been the pick, but the Syracuse Region had Kansas at a three and Oklahoma State and Kansas could not meet until the Regional finals. Instead of moving Kansas and a potential meeting with former coach Roy Williams and North Carolina, the committee could have swapped out Oklahoma State and UConn.
The "S-curve" would have the worst of the twos meeting the best of the threes. That could very well be where Arizona landed.
So now Arizona has to play in the Chicago Region, the region with the best No. 1. That's hard enough, but that top team is Illinois, who could play the second weekend in Chicago, just a few hours from its campus.
Before the Wildcats can look ahead to possible opponents, they have to beat a decent Utah State team.
"We only focus on Utah State, on what's ahead of us on Thursday," Wildcat assistant Josh Pastner told Cat Tracks.
Some people wondered if Utah State was better than a 14 seed, but the RPI seems to indicate that it is not too far off. Of the four 14 seeds only Niagara had an inferior RPI rating.
The Aggies are a deep team who play a deliberate style. Ten players see the floor at least 10 minutes and they have some size.
"They are an older group, well coached," Pastner said. "It will be a grind-it-out game. I expect they will try to zone us."
It is easy to overlook a team from the Big West who has lost to Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge, but the Wildcat coaches won't.
"They are a good team," Pastner said. "We have to make sure we come out to play. They have given people some tough games in the first round. It should be a good game. Everyone you play from here on out is good. All of the teams involved are capable of winning."
The Wildcats have paid a price for their loss in the finals of the Pac-10 Championship game. Had they won, they would probably be the top seed in the West with a possibility of playing in Albuquerque. Now they are out in Chicago, with a chance to play the nation's best team in a virtual home game. The Cats can either have a defeated attitude or they can rally at the adversity.
"We think of it as a bump in the road," Olson said. "It's a real motivating thing for a couple of guys in the program."