Now that 2023 is in full swing, we can say goodbye to the months of January and February and with these two pages of the calendar now crossed off in full, we can begin to look forward to the madness which is going to unfold in March.
Because up and down the United States, a lot of sports fans are going to succumb to basketball fever. A fever that dictates that they must watch 68 of college basketball’s finest take to the paint.
While the symptoms will only begin to clear with the more games these ailing supporters. Should they make it all the way to the final, they will be in a position to enjoy one of America’s greatest sporting events.
Of course, it is not just the ailing supporters who will want to make it all the way to the final. It is also each of the 68 colleges that have been entered into this year’s March Madness bracket.
Only one team will be able to call themselves the 2023 champions and of that large number of entrants, Arizona’s Wildcats would love to put themselves in the title mix. They have managed to do so once before, but that single outright success is looking rather lonely.
Now though, the Wildcats will look to go all the way for the second time in the college’s illustrious history, and on the topic of history, we are going to take a look at the highlight and some lowlights of their previous March Madness campaigns.
While what better place to start than at the very top? A position that the Wildcats found themselves at in 1997. We will get to how they won that year’s March Madness in due course, but first, we will take a look at their path to the final.
A path that started with a First Round pairing with South Alabama. One that looked like it was going to be a tricky task before the game got underway and one that certainly was by the time the final score was recorded.
There was just eight points difference between Arizona and South Alabama. Not a perfect start it must be said, but a start all the same, and that 65-57 success would then see Charleston lie in wait in the Second Round.
If the tie was tight, their clash with the 12th seed was even tighter. Eight points the difference in the First Round, just four this time around. If the Wildcats were to win the 1997 edition of March Madness they would certainly have to earn their success.
Something that was apparent in the Sweet Sixteen clash with first-seeded Kansas. Not only was one period of overtime required to split the stalemate between the two sides, but two were needed.
Eventually, this second period of overtime would declare a winner. The winner was the Wildcats in an exhausting game of basketball. Unfortunately for them, the same levels of exhaustion would be shown in the Elite Eight.
Once again, two periods of overtime were needed to break the deadlock. This time it was Providence who had to stay for longer than they first had planned. Once again, it was Arizona who progressed at another team’s expense.
This meant the Final Four was the reward for two punishing March Madness matches and with North Carolina acting in wait, the bracket felt like it was punishing the Wildcats at the same time.
However, the Tar Heels would be powerless in their attempts to make the 1997 March Madness final. In this instance, overtime was not required and Arizona had the extra edge in a tense 65-58 win.
A victory that once again set up an encounter that required a period of overtime. Only one was needed but it did not lessen the shredding of nerves around the court. Kentucky would lose theirs and also lose the final by 84 points to 79.
The first and only Arizona March Madness success up until now, can they win in 2023 and join a number of colleges who have managed to win outright on two separate occasions? Time will tell but now we are going to go back in time and look at some near misses.
The nearest of misses would come back in 2001, as they lost out in the final. Heartbreak for Arizona sports bettors it must be said but first, we are going to look at how they got to the biggest game of that year’s March Madness tournament.
With the bracket in place, the first opponents were Eastern Illinois. A game that was nothing more than a tuneup when looking back at the final score. 101-76 is in the history books, this one was a washout for all intents and purposes.
The same could be said for their Second Round meeting with Butler. The only thing the Butler served this time was their own exit from the tournament. They may have been 10th seeds but a 73-52 defeat showed they were no match for the Wildcats.
Things would be slightly more difficult in the Sweet Sixteen though as they went up against Ole Miss. With that said, it was certainly a missed opportunity for the Mississippi-based college.
They would be disposed of by a margin of 10 points and with every win that the Wildcats were recording, you could feel a head of steam forming. Could these cats be tamed in the Elite Eight?
The answer to that question was no. Illinois did their best to stop them. Their best was not good enough. Just six points served as the winning margin this time but as long as you are on the winning side what does the margin really matter?
With that being said, North Carolina got their own Tar Heels stuck in the court in the Final Four. One of the most successful colleges of all time, was not successful here, as they lost by 80 points to 61.
Which meant a grandstand finale with Duke was soon to be on the cards. You could say Arizona’s Wildcats would have to duke it out with their opponents. They did but unfortunately for them, they lost out by a score of 82 points to 72 in the final.
Heartbreak in 2001 and almost the same pangs of pain would be felt thirteen years prior. It may not have been a loss in the final but defeat at the Final Four is still going to hurt a considerable amount.
Especially as they blew Cornell out of the water in the First Round. The 16th seeds did not stand a chance against the Wildcats. The winning margin would be no less than 40 points, it was almost men versus boys.
The same statement could be made for the opposition that awaited them in the Second Round. This time it was Seaton Hall who tried to block further March Madness progress in 1988, they tried but ultimately failed.
A failure that can be measured by defeat and one that was 29 points in margin. All of a sudden, basketball observers were beginning to take notice of this Arizona team and they were being tipped for outright success.
Especially as Iowa was disposed of in the Sweet Sixteen. Again another comfortable win was recorded, This time it was a 20-point margin, and for a fifth seed to be beaten by that amount, you would have to consider the victory worthy of making a statement.
The same could be said for their victory over North Carolina in the Elite Eight. Once again the Tar Heels found themselves in a rather sticky sporting situation, as they succumbed to a 70-52 defeat.
Which meant a meeting with Oklahoma would not be all that far away and one that would be held in the Final Four. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it would also be their last performance in that year’s March Madness tournament, as they lost by 86 points to 78.
While the same fate would be afforded to the Wildcats just six years later and this time their path to the Final Four would begin with a comfortable win over Loyola. One that saw them earn an 81-55 victory with relative ease.
The same ease could also be applied to their Second Round success over Virginia. The seventh seeds were no match for Arizona, as they were sent packing by virtue of a 71-58 defeat.
This would lead to a Sweet Sixteen pairing with Louisville and although the sixth seeds did their best to halt the progress of the college in question, their resistance would only prove to be futile in the end.
An 82-70 win there, a 74-61 victory against Missouri in the Elite Eight. Once again, the Wildcats were being tipped for the biggest success of all. If the tip was to be correct, they only had to win two more matches.
Unfortunately for them, they would not have the opportunity to play in the second of those two and with Arkansas winning their Final Four clash by 91-82 it would be they who would advance to the tournament game with Duke.
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