SALT LAKE CITY -- They were the trendy upset pick, as they've been a few times in recent years. But Belmont is still o-fer in its program history when it comes to NCAA tournament wins.
And so Cinderella continues to have a rough go of it on the first true day of the NCAA tournament.
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The 11th-seeded Bruins ran into a bit of a buzzsaw against No. 6 Arizona on Thursday night at Energy Solutions Arena. It was a wire-to-wire, no-doubt-about-it 81-64 victory for Sean Miller's team, which will face the winner of New Mexico-Harvard on Saturday.
Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with 23 points. The shoot-first point guard ended up solving what could've been a big problem in Belmont's senior dual threat at guard in Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark, who combined for 43 points.
"You think, the one thing about our team that's deceptive is we're bigger and more physical than we get credit for," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "Kaleb Tarczewski has developed. He's not the same player in March as he once was, and we're physical on the wings with Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom. Those guys are in their senior year. Not only are they 6'6", but they are physically strong, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. We can come at you that maybe you can't see on TV until we're in person."
The undersized Bruins lost the way most would have expected: by getting outrebounded and beaten inside by the big Wildcats. Belmont managed only one offensive board, but that poor performance was offset by the fact the team had only eight turnovers. Arizona is not only more talented, it just has more mass. With its skill, if it plays to potential, then yeah, it's going to beat Belmont. The rebound edge was 44-18, a near-impossible deficit to overcome.
"I said it all year long. It's confidence, that's the biggest thing he brings to this team, brings to me, a young player that has gone through some issues," Zona guard Nick Johnson said. "So I mean, that's my big brother and that's the best thing."
Arizona is a team that started the season 14-0, remember. It had some skids into mid-winter, but in general the team has the talent of a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. What's clear: Arizona did not play many better games this season than what we saw in Utah on Thursday night. That's good timing. And Sean Miller is now 5-1 in the Round of 64.
If the Wildcats put up a similar performance inside and get reliable play from Lyons, who had just one turnover, then this team will be as reputable as the one who didn't lose until Jan. 10.