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Arizona-Belmont: Many in media looking for an upset

Belmont and coach Rick Byrd cut down the nets after winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Photo by Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The rapid reaction from CBS analyst Seth Davis on the NCAA Tournament selection show was that Belmont would upset Arizona on Thursday.

Later he tweeted: “Arizona’s number one weakness all season was defending the three. Belmont is spread, drive, kick and shoot. Plus they’re poised.”

Several others jumped on the idea of the 11th-seeded Bruins beating the No. 6 Wildcats was a popular one. Here is a sampling of what the media was saying about Arizona and its opening-game matchup against Belmont:

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Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com picked Arizona-Belmont as one of his five must-see Round of 64 games.

“Belmont has been a chic upset pick in many of its recent appearances. But it has never been seeded as high as this year, and now I have to believe this is Rick Byrd’s moment. His two-guard attack of Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson are going to give fits to Arizona’s uneven backcourt. Belmont’s not a big team, but it is the best one on defense Byrd’s ever had. Arizona’s just out of sorts. It’s talented but hasn’t fully come into form this year. Most times, I think trendy upset picks of the 11/6 and 12/5 variety need to be avoided. Not here. Expect a really good game to go Belmont’s way.”

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David Leon Moore of USA Today tabbed the matchup as his “potential upset” pick in the West.

“Is Belmont the best basketball program in the country never to have won an NCAA tournament game? This is the sixth NCAA appearance for Belmont since 2006, but its record stands at 0-5. Maybe they can end their losing streak in this one, and not just because they have a nickname — Bruins — that has beaten Arizona three times this year, all courtesy of UCLA. Belmont senior guard Ian Clark — 18.1 points a game, 46.3% from beyond the arc — is the kind of three-point marksman that can give Arizona fits.”

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Jeff Eisenberg at Yahoo! Sports writes that Arizona-Belmont is the most intriguing West matchup of the first round:

“The past two seasons, Belmont has entered the NCAA tournament as a trendy opening-round upset pick only fall quietly at the hands of Wisconsin and Georgetown. The OVC champion Bruins are hoping to have more success this March against an Arizona team that limped into the NCAA tournament, going 5-5 in its last 10 games after a 20-2 start. What will be especially interesting about this game is seeing if Arizona limit Belmont’s perimeter-heavy offense and if the Bruins can hold Arizona’s frontcourt in check. The dribble penetration of Kerron Johnson and the outside shooting of Ian Clark should give Arizona problems, but Belmont may struggle to match up with the Wildcats’ size inside.”

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Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com goes with an 0-5 tournament record for the Pac-12 in his “10 bold predictions” column.

“And Belmont is a tough mid-major that won’t be intimidated in its upset over Arizona.”

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Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News goes with Arizona as his sleeper pick in the West.

“The No. 6 seed beat Miami and Florida in December, then meandered through the Pac-12. But when the Wildcats are hitting on all cylinders, they’re one of the nation’s top 15 or 20 teams.”

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Bryan Fischer of Pac-12.com has breakdowns on the league’s matchups.

“It’s a really tough draw for the Wildcats as they open with an excellent shooting team in Belmont. The Bruins are 4th in the country in field goal percentage and rank in the top 15 in points scored. That means defense will be a key factor in advancing further in March. Nick Johnson and several others looked like they were re-energized in the Pac-12 tournament and Sean Miller will likely need even more on both ends of the floor. Stopping guard Ian Clark will be a big thing for Arizona, who draw a very tough match up in their opening round game.”

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Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports, includes Arizona in his “Fraudulent Five” of the NCAAs.

“Seems an eternity ago that the Wildcats were 14-0. Since then they are 11-7 and have beaten just one NCAA tournament team (Colorado).”

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Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com also has Arizona on upset alert as he looks at teams outside of the major conferences:

“Belmont: Is this the year the Bruins break through and finally live to their reputation as a perennial upset selection? They have the right matchup for it, as they can force turnovers and knock down 3-pointers – and Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark have the ability to really make life difficult for Mark Lyons and Arizona. Coach Rick Byrd has a deep and experienced roster, and they might win a game.”

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Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News isn’t down on Arizona in his regional breakdown, calling the Wildcats the most underrated team in the West.

“Arizona was the best of a bad crop in a Pac 12 whose struggles this season have been well-documented. Losing in the semifinals of the Pac 12 tournament to UCLA certainly didn’t help Arizona’s seeding, but it could be a blessing with mid-major New Mexico as its likely third-round matchup. Arizona’s best win this season was a 69-50 victory over Miami back in December, and the Wildcats can boast about an early-season victory over Florida, too. Three of Arizona’s top four scorers are seniors and experience always helps in the Tournament. Belmont will be a popular upset pick, but the Wildcats have an RPI of 15 and are much better than the six seed they were given.”

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Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette lists Arizona-Belmont as his upset special in the West.

“The Wildcats are one year away and they have very few quality wins after Jan. 1. Belmont is always a team that is scary as the Bruins are athletic and feature a go-to guy in Ian Clark (18.1 ppg).”

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