The Arizona Wildcats, after posting a win against the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday, have jumped to number 12 in the national rankings. The Wildcats are 21-4 overall, and they lead the Pac-10 with a 10-2 conference record.
SB Nation's resident bracketologist Chris Dobbertean has the Wildcats projected as the fifth seed in the Southeast region, which would leave them with a first-round match-up against the Valparaiso Crusaders (19-7) of the Horizon Conference. A win in that game would most likely pit the Wildcats against the North Carolina Tar Heel in what would be an exciting and entertaining second round contest.
The Wildcats could claim their highest seed since the 2005 NCAA Tournament, when they received a three seed. Since that time, the Wildcats have experienced a relatively disappointing stretch: an eight seed in 2006, an eight seed in 2007, a 10 seed in 2008, a 12 seed in 2009, and no appearance at all last year (which put an end to a streak of 25 straight NCAA appearances).
Of course, a high seed doesn't guarantee an Elite Eight or Final Four berth in the same way that a low seed doesn't guarantee a first-round exit. In 1999, for instance, Arizona entered the NCAA tournament as a four seed but crashed out in the first round. The Wildcats in 2009, meanwhile, entered the tournament as the 12 seed in the Midwest region and made an impressive run to the Sweet 16. March Madness is unpredictable, and anything can happen. That being said, having a high seed certainly doesn't hurt a team's chances.
For now, Arizona will try to secure the highest seed possible by finishing out their final six regular season games on a strong note. Arizona currently leads the Pac-10 with a 10-2 conference record, but the UCLA Bruins (9-3) and Washington Huskies (9-4) are still in the hunt. The Wildcats will face the Huskies at home on Saturday, February 9th and the Bruins on the road the following Saturday, on February 26th.
Arizona will look to clinch victories in these two games to bolster the chances of winning their first Pac-10 regular season title since 2005. That 2005 Wildcat squad, as mentioned before, entered the NCAA tournament as a three seed. That team also made a run to the Elite Eight. With star forward Derrick Williams leading the way, the Wildcats and their fans can only hope that this season produces similar, if not better, results.