TUCSON--The University of Arizona men's basketball team was selected to participate in the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Championships on Sunday, with a No. 10 seeding and a match in Washington, D.C. Thursday night against West Virginia.
Arizona meets the Mountaineers in Game 4 of the first round, with tipoff scheduled for around 6:55 p.m. in Tucson (9:55 p.m. EDT locally in Washington). The game will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 3 between Duke and Belmont, which tips at 4:10 p.m. MST.?All games of the tournament are to be televised by CBS-TV in the?markets of the competing teams. (Check your local listings for games in your area.)
UA (19-14) was one of six Pac-10 teams picked for the tournament. Others include No. 1 seed UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Southern California and Oregon.
The Wildcats were placed in the West Region bracket with the first round game against seventh seed West Virginia (24-10). The winner of that game plays the winner of the Duke-Belmont contest on Saturday. One half of the West bracket is at D.C., with Purdue-Baylor and Xavier-Georgia also slated for games in the Verizon Center.
Georgia meets Xavier in Game 1 at the Verizon Center at 12:20 p.m. Thursday, with Baylor vs. Purdue to start 30 minutes after the conclusion of that game.
Arizona will be making its 24th consecutive NCAA appearance, the best active string in the nation. The record is 27 by North Carolina fom 1975 to 2001, while Kansas has the second-best active streak at 19.
"I'm as excited about (the selection) as I've ever been in my basketball coaching career," UA interim head coach Kevin O'Neill told reporters. "Our players deserve it, and we'll get ready to play some good basketball and keep on playing."
UA coach Lute Olson, on a leave of absence until after the season,?took Arizona to each NCAA tournament from 1985 onward. This year's squad matches Olson's first and third Arizona NCAA-bound squads as a No. 10 seed. O'Neill was named acting coach in Olson's place last November and helped guide Arizona through one of the toughest schedules extant, one apparent reason UA was picked despite finishing below .500 (8-10) for seventh place in the Pac-10.?
Seven-seeded West Virginia (24-10) reached the Big East Tournament semifinals where it lost to Georgetown, 72-55. The Mountaineers, like Arizona, are a young team with only two seniors on their roster in guard Darris Nichols and center Jamie Smalligan.
Mountaineers' junior forward Joe Alexander could be the biggest trouble for Arizona. He's scored 161 points in his last six games and leads WVU with 16.8 points per game. Next is soph forward Da'Sean Butler who pumps in 12.8 points and grabs 6.1 rebounds per contest.
West Virginia is one of eight Big East teams to make the field of 65. Villanova was the last conference team to get into the tournament, giving the Big East the most teams in the field. The league is comprised of 16 teams. Those in the tourney include Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pitt, Connecticut, Villanova and Louisville.
The Wildcats and Mountaineers have met four times previously with the last coming in 1993 when UA defeated WVU, 75-74, in Tucson in the December 1992 Fiesta Bowl Classic.