The Wildcats stumbled out of the gate against No. 13 seed Buffalo, and while they kept it close for the first 20 minutes, Buffalo's hot shooting and Arizona's inability to hit anything on offense created a flawless recipe for an upset.
Anyone who saw the Wildcats get outfought and outhustled in the second half, though, when there still was an opportunity to take back the game, could tell you Arizona did not work hard during the course of its 40 minutes.
They spent the evening on top of the world after an absolutely astonishing upset of fourth-seeded Arizona.
Syracuse (21-13) had to sweat out Selection Sunday and wound up as the last one to make the bracket, sent to the First Four. Battle had made just one 3 all night, that one coming with 13 minutes to go in the first half, but this one ripped through the net for a 55-52 lead with 1:49 left on the clock. Senior guard Wes Clark led UB with a game-high 25 points while Jeremy Harris had a strong game with 23 and CJ Massinburg scored 19. Harris had seven rebounds while Clark seven assists. "But we knew deep down ... we can play with these guys". Buffalo "came out of the gate and just destroyed us".
UB did a masterful job of keeping potential top National Basketball Association draft pick Deandre Ayton in check, holding the 7-foot-1 freshman to 14 points on 6 of 13 shooting while being pestered by Ikenna Smart and Nick Perkins. Massinburg banked in a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 13 and the Bulls kept building it, racing off to the program's biggest victory.
"They overwhelmed us in the second half, on offense and defense", Arizona coach Sean Miller said. On the season, Arizona State shot 73.8 percent from the stripe, but the team was able to hit just 3 of 10 freebies here.
Arizona won the Pac-12 regular-season title and routed Southern California in the tournament title game, becoming the second team in conference history to sweep both in consecutive seasons.
"We endured a lot from the beginning", Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. "With our young guys and kind of early on in the season we had our bumps, but as the season progressed, you see those young guys learning".
The MAC's Bulls have a decided size disadvantage against the Pac-12's Wildcats and their pair of their 7-footers.
The Orange, the last team selected for the NCAA Tournament, survived to play another day, holding off Arizona State 60-56 on Wednesday night in the First Four. Their defeat in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament was so embarrassing, though, and completed a season that included so many unflattering precedents, it would be irresponsible to ignore that this program might be facing a period of dramatic change.
Kentucky enters this game at 25-10 on the year overall. He's probably going to be the No. 1 pick in the Draft, but first he and Arizona are looking to put up a banner. There was the potential matchup with Kentucky - a fellow preseason top-five team - in the second round.