Arizona (33-3, 16-2) isn’t a No.1 seed, but they’ve played as well as any team in March Madness. The team considered to have the best chance to upset Kentucky in the 2015 NCAA Tournament is set to play No.6-seeded Xavier (23-12, 9-9) in the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats have the second-best national championship odds of any team in the field. They’re undefeated since their last loss on Feb. 7, having won 13 consecutive games. After defeating two NCAA Tournament teams on their way to winning the Pac-12 Championship, Arizona beat No.15-seeded Texas Southern and No.10-seeded Ohio State by 36 combined points last weekend.
Not only has Arizona won 33 of 36 games, but they’ve dominated many of their opponents. Prior to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats had nine wins over tournament teams, winning by an average of nearly 14 points per game.
Scoring 74.4 points per game, Arizona ranks 22nd in the nation. They have a balanced offensive attack with Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson combining to score 37.5 points per game. Xavier isn’t far behind, scoring 73.6 points per game.
Defensively is where Arizona has their greatest edge. They rank 14th in the nation, allowing just 59 points per game. Xavier’s 67.3 points surrendered per contest is tied for 193rd in the country.
Defeating an upper echelon team like Arizona won’t be easy for Xavier. The Musketeers recorded seven wins against NCAA Tournament teams before the Round of 64 began, but they failed to upset a national title contender. Xavier had three matchups with Villanova, who went on to be the No.1 seed in the East region. Xavier lost all three games by an average of 14 points.
The Musketeers haven’t had the most difficult road to the Sweet 16. They topped No.11-seeded Ole Miss in the second round, followed by a victory over No.14-seeded Georgia State in the Round of 32. Xavier was never in much trouble of not advancing to the next round, winning by 27 total points.
But Arizona hasn’t been perfect this season, suffering all three of their losses to teams that weren’t good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats were beaten by UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State, all of whom combined to go just 25-29 in the Pac-12.
The two teams are very familiar with each other, since Xavier head coach Chris Mack succeeded Arizona head coach Sean Miller when he left the school in 2009. Miller led the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament four times in five years, including an appearance in the Elite Eight. Xavier has never missed the tournament under Mack, though the team hasn’t advanced past the Sweet 16.
Start Time: 10:17 p.m. ET (or 30 minutes after the conclusion of North Carolina vs. Wisconsin)
TV Channel: TBS
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Point Spread: Arizona favored by 11 points
Over/Under: 136.5 points
Prediction: Arizona over Xavier, 79-65