The vast majority of college basketball fans and analysts believe that No. 1 Kentucky (36-0) will win the NCAA Tournament. That’s the way it seems, at least. And the ones who aren’t buying Kentucky seem to be buying Wisconsin.
And then there’s Dan Bonner. The CBS Sports college basketball analyst has been extremely impressed with another team: No. 2 Arizona, which has won its first two tournament games by a combined 36 points.
Just how good are Sean Miller’s Wildcats?
“They could go all the way,” Bonner said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think they’re long, they’re athletic, there’s a lot of them, they can score (and) they can defend.”
Arizona beat No. 15 Texas Southern, 93-72, on Thursday and No. 10 Ohio State, 73-58, on Saturday. Neither result surprised Bonner, who saw Arizona beat UTEP, 60-55, on Dec. 19.
“They won a really close game,” Bonner said. “It wasn’t a very pretty game (and) they didn’t play very well offensively. But (after the game, Miller) told me, ‘We defend and we rebound – and early in the season, that’s what was winning us games. But now our offense has come along.’ And so he thought they were pretty good – and I’m telling you they’re pretty good.”
Arizona is the rare team that can dominate on both ends of the floor. The Wildcats ranked in the top 25 in both scoring offense and scoring defense this season and finished in the top 10 in offensive field-goal percentage.
Arizona (33-3) faces No. 6 Xavier (23-13) in the Sweet 16 this Thursday at 10:17 p.m. ET, with the victor to play the winner of No. 1 Wisconsin (33-3) versus No. 4 North Carolina (26-11).
“If we get a Wisconsin/Arizona regional final, that might be the best game of the NCAA Tournament,” Bonner said.
Sticking in the Pac-12, Bonner has also been impressed with No. 5 Utah (26-8), which has beaten Stephen F. Austin and Georgetown to advance to the Sweet 16.
“I was impressed with them – more so than I expected to be after just watching them on tape,” Bonner said. “Sometimes you don’t really get a feel for a team until you see them in person. And I was impressed.”
Bonner was especially impressed with Utah freshman forward Jakob Poeltl, who has scored 30 points on 12-of-13 shooting in the tournament.
“(He) has been playing better and better,” Bonner said. “He’s a 7-foot kid, he runs really well, he catches the ball inside well, he’s a good defender – their defense is their key. If they can guard you and keep the game close, then they have enough offense where I think they can beat you in the end.”
Whether Utah can do that against No. 1 Duke (31-4), however, remains to be seen. Those two square off Friday at 9:45 p.m. ET.
“I’m not sure how they’re going to perform against Duke,” Bonner said. “Jakob Poeltl is a really good player, and I think that he is going to develop into maybe a great player. But he’s going up against a great player (in Jahlil Okafor). Duke will put Okafor out there on the court and they’ll surround him with those four guys who can shoot threes. I’m not sure Utah has enough for them.”