The Arizona Wildcats started the year on a tear by winning their first 21 games and being ranked No. 1 in the nation for most of that stretch. However, a
broken leg and three losses during the final month of the season may have
halted the teamís momentum and stuck a dagger through the heart of its national title hopes. Arizonaís Brandon Ashley suffered a broken leg early in the
teamís first loss of the year against Pac-12 rival California back in February, and the team has not looked quite the same since.
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The Wildcats are still a supremely talented squad, led by the excellent play of guard Nick Johnson and freshman Aaron Gordon. However, heading into a deep
NCAA Tournament the team could have used the extra production provided by its now-injured sophomore forward. Letís take a closer look at Arizonaís 2014
NCAA Tournament futures odds with picks, analysis and predictions. All odds come from Sportsbook.ag
Arizona 2014 NCAA Tournament Story Lines
Arizona is all but guaranteed a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament, and even a loss in the Pac-12 Tournament wonít necessarily change anything. The
Wildcats ended the season ranked fourth in the AP Top 25 poll and probably will not fall behind five-loss Louisville and six-loss Virginia in the rankings.
Arizona, however, will have its hands full in its own conference tournament and may end up facing a tough UCLA or Oregon team in the finals.
The squad ended its regular season with a surprising seven-point loss to Oregon after leading by 12 points for most of the first half, and it will not play
again until Thursday March 13, when the team faces either Washington or Utah in the second round of the conference tournament. Arizona has been a solid
offensive squad all year, averaging 73.5 points per game, but it began focusing on its defense and incorporating a slower pace after the first month of the
Head coach Sean Miller, the Pac-12ís coach of the year, spent the season preaching team unity and defense to a young, but experienced, squad that was full
of freshman and sophomore players. Last season the Wildcats made a deep Sweet 16 tournament run but lost a close game to Ohio State. The team will be
looking to extend last yearís run and make an Elite Eight or Final Four appearance if a national title game is not in the cards.
Arizona 2014 NCAA Tournament Odds and Key Trends
Arizona is currently the third-favorite to win the national title at +750 odds, according to Sportsbook.ag. The team ended the regular season with an 18-12
overall ATS record and a 9-18-2 totals mark. Arizona, however, was not the same team ATS-wise after the losing to its starting forward and went 5-5 ATS
over its final 10 games of the season. The squad did manage to cover three of its last four double-digit spreads.
Arizona averaged 73.5 points per game (97th), 45.6 percent shooting from the field (62nd) and 39 rebounds per game (21st). But for all of Arizonaís
offensive prowess, the team excelled the most on the defensive end. Arizona allowed only 58.7 points per game, which was ranked sixth in the nation, and
held its opponents to 38.5 percent shooting from the field (ninth) and out-rebounded its opposition by 14 boards per night.
Arizona Odds to Win 2014 NCAA Tournament with Picks and Predictions
Arizona is receiving a solid price at +750, but it will probably miss the inside presence of Ashley to make a wager on the team worthwhile. The forward was
not a huge part of the team, but he did provide such excellent production and a solid defensive presence in the middle that it would be naÔve to believe
the team wonít miss him during the tournament.
The Wildcats are still talented and could even make another deep run. However, expecting them to win a National Championship might be wishful thinking. The
team seems to have peaked in late December and might not be able to regain its early-season form. Expect Arizona to get eliminated early in the tournament.
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Read more articles by George Monroy