There was no shortage of upsets over the first two rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Among them: The Princeton Tigers sending home the No. 8 ranked Arizona Wildcats in round one with a 59-55 victory.
The Wildcats entered this year’s March Madness tournament as the No. 8 ranked team, behind only Alabama (1), Houston (2), Purdue (3), defending champion Kansas (4), Texas (5), Marquette (6) and UCLA (7).
2023 marked yet another heartbreaking loss for an Arizona team that dominated regular season play. A year ago, the Wildcats reached the Sweet Sixteen but fell to Houston by a final score of 72-60.
Arizona reached the Sweet Sixteen back in 2017 but dropped another heartbreaker, falling 73-71 to Xavier. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight back in 2014 and 2015, falling to Wisconsin in both years.
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What Went Wrong For Arizona? In A Word, “Offense”
Defense certainly wasn’t Arizona’s strength in 2022-23, as they allowed a whopping 71.1 points per game. The offense, which averaged 81.9 points per game in the regular season, was always going to lead the way for Tommy Lloyd’s team.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ offense went ice cold when it mattered most. Princeton’s stingy defense limited Arizona’s prolific attack to just 55 points in the upset win.
Azuolas Tubelis was the Wildcats’ lone productive player on offense, recording 22 points, five rebounds and four steals. After Tubelis, Oumar Ballo was Arizona’s leading scorer with 13 points.
The Wildcats were let down by horrific three-point shooting, as the team made just three of 16 attempts. That simply won’t be enough to win in most games, especially in a high-stakes game like an elimination contest.
Not a single player on Arizona made multiple three-point attempts. Kerr Kriisa, who shot 36.6 from beyond the arc on the year, missed six of his seven three-point attempts. Cedric Henderson and Courtney Ramey were a combined 0-for-5.
Arizona’s defense gave Lloyd’s chance every opportunity to win. The Tigers averaged 75.5 points per game during 2022-23, and yet the Wildcats managed to keep them well below that mark in Thursday’s contest.
You just can’t expect to win a game when your high-powered offense is missing too many open looks and opportunities. Princeton’s defense did in defending around the rim, but the Wildcats also know they partially gave this away with horrendous shooting from the field.
Several Stunning Upsets In Early Rounds Of March Madness
If it makes the Wildcats feel slightly better, their loss to Princeton was far from the biggest upset in the early stages of 2023 March Madness.
In one of the greatest upsets ever, Fairleigh Dickinson stunned No. 1 ranked Purdue 63-58 on Friday. With the victory, FDU became just the second No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in March Madness, per the NCAA.
The defending champion Kansas Jayhawks were upset 72-71 by No. 8 ranked Arkansas, meaning that there won’t be a repeat winner for the first time since 2007, when the Florida Gators successfully defended their national title.
We see a handful of unexpected March Madness upsets every single year, but 2023 will certainly be remembered as a tournament with more stunning early-round eliminations compared to most other years.
Still Plenty Of Sports For Arizona To Enjoy
Both Arizona and Arizona State may be eliminated from the 2023 men’s March Madness tournament, but there are still lots of sporting games and events for residents of The Copper State to be excited about.
The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are winding down their 2022-23 season and can at least embrace the spoiler role against several playoff hopefuls. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns will make the playoffs once again, and with Kevin Durant now in the fold, should be considered a top contender in the West.
And of course, the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball will open up their 2023 season on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Mar. 30. The D-Backs will host the Dodgers in their 2023 home opener on Apr. 6.