Gimino: No.1 or 2 seed? Who cares

Gimino: No.1 or 2 seed? Who cares

By Anthony Gimino / Special for Tucson News Now

LAS VEGAS -- The net has been cut down, the championship trophy hoisted, the confetti cleaned up.

You know what's next.

Welcome to Selection Sunday, when the Arizona Wildcats -- the runaway champions of the Pac-12 in the regular season and in the conference tournament -- will find out if they are a No. 1 seed or a No. 2 seed.

As if it matters.

All the minute-by-minute bracketology updates are merely sound, fury and meaningless mental exercises. Patience, people. Every hotly debated theoretical scenario will fade away when reality hits this afternoon, and even then nobody will be able to know if being a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed will provide the best path for the Wildcats because it's all about the matchups and all about the upsets elsewhere in the bracket.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sat in the locker room after a rousing 80-52 victory over Oregon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night and shrugged about the soon-to-be-revealed NCAA Tournament bracket.

"Whoever makes that up are great, smart guys," he said. "We'll let them handle that and we'll just play basketball."

About the only thing a fan can hope for is that their team is playing at its best -- and then whatever happens, happens.

"This is something we set as a goal at the beginning of the season, but we're not making it any bigger than it is," center Kaleb Tarczewski said of winning the school's first conference tournament title since 2002. "We're playing for a Final Four, which is what everyone in this locker room signed up to do."

Arizona, the case can clearly be made, is playing its best basketball.

Junior forward Brandon Ashley is playing at the highest level of his career, taking home tournament Most Outstanding Player honors after making 19 of 26 shots in three games and averaging nearly 20 points. Hollis-Jefferson averaged nine rebounds per game. Stanley Johnson, confidence soaring even higher, made seven 3-point shots and averaged 16 points.

T.J. McConnell dished out 23 assists and showed he can read a room as well as a defense, when he took the microphone during the trophy presentation and told the sea of red: "We have the best damn fans in America!"

So much so that the 11 other schools might want to take up legislation to move the tournament out of Las Vegas and move it to Spokane.

After the party in Vegas, the Wildcats are 31-3 and have done so much that they would be a near lock as the No. 1 seed in the West in any other year. But this is a top-heavy season in college basketball; it appears more teams have No. 1 resumes than available slots for those No. 1 seeds.

"We can't control that," coach Sean Miller said of being a No. 1 seed. "I know we're in the conversation. … I think the more important part for us is, how well we are going to continue to play. Can we build off the tournament? That's our focus."

If Arizona does get a No. 1 seed, it will be a top seed for the second consecutive season. That would be a nice accomplishment. It's certainly been a topic of conversation, a potential source of pride. On the other hand, being a No. 2 seed could provide the chip on the shoulder -- such as the snubs among the Pac-12 individual awards -- that usually serves this team so well.

"The 1 or the 2 seed doesn't matter to us at all," said guard Elliott Pitts. "It's doesn't matter to us who we play either. We're just excited to finally get the tournament going."

Even momentum, such as Arizona has with 11 consecutive victories, means nothing. Hot teams lose in early rounds. Teams coming off embarrassing losses in their conference tournament get hot. For more on this, see, 2014 UConn.

But what's most encouraging is that the Wildcats have found their roles, their chemistry, their sense of collective purpose on a balanced offensive team that believes in defense and rebounding above all else.

"Coach says it all the time -- you could be at a different school and average 20 (points), or you could be here and win games," Tarczewski said. "Everyone is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win as many games as possible. That's the most important thing to everyone -- just winning."

So, don't fret over whatever spot Arizona is seeded or what the potential matchups look like. Just hope that the Cats are up to the task of being at their best six more times across the next three weeks.

"We just do what we do," Johnson said. "We're not finished yet. … Now we are at that start of our journey; let's finish it."

Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.