After a season in which lowly TCU took down top-seeded Kansas, nearly every Second Round matchup requires meticulous scrutiny.
Want to know what it's like be the guy that picked Norfolk State over Missouri last March? Download SnapCall Sports from the iTunes App Store to follow our tourney coverage. For now, here's a little taste for Thursday's action:
On New Year's Eve, Arizona ranked 3rd in the nation. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 14-0 start that included wins over Florida and Miami, the Wildcats have gone just 11-7. It's hard to have confidence in a team that lost to UCLA three times in the past two months.
Statistically, the Wildcats don't light up the stat sheets. No player on their roster scores over 15 points, pulls down at least 7 boards or dishes 4 assists per game. So, they must share the ball well as team, right? Think again. Arizona ranks 109th nationally with 13.8 assists per game as a team. They shoot average percentages from all over the court, rank in the middle of the pack in turnovers, and don't dominate teams on the glass.
Seed-wise, Arizona garnered respect from the selection committee based on quality wins back in December. Be wary though, early season wins are not a barometer for success in the NCAA Tournament.
On the other side, Belmont would be a threat to any team in the field, let alone the vulnerable Wildcats. The Bruins are making their 2nd straight tournament appearance, and 5th since 2006. Though they were bounced in the first round each time, this year's team possesses a shooting stroke that previous rosters could only match in their dreams.
Looking back at the numbers, Belmont ranks among the nation's leaders in a host of offensive categories. The Bruins shot 49.4% from the field this year, which was 4th best in the nation. They score over 73 points per game, and are the 15th best team, nationally, in assists per game.
However, it must be mentioned that Belmont did much of their damage in the Ohio Valley Conference which features such vaunted programs as SIU-Edwards and Jacksonville St.
With that said, the Bruins took care of business during conference play. They went 14-2 in the regular season on the way to the Ohio Valley tournament title. Seniors Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack are hungry, and will do their best to garner Belmont's first-ever tournament win.
In summary, we'd warn you not to overlook Belmont based on their less-than-impressive strength of schedule. The Bruins may be getting sized up for the glass slipper after this weekend.
The pick: Belmont 70, Arizona 67.