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Every year amateur bracket prognosticators are attracted to the allure of upsets. They root for them, relish every heart-stopping moment and brag to buddies when their foresights are correctly nailed.
The 5-12 game is a tournament matchup synonymous with Cinderella, and a popular annual upset pick. Select at least one of the low seeds and odds are that team will showcase a 'correct' greenish hue. Overall, 12-seeds have basked in Round 1 triumph 32.3 percent of time. More engrossing, since the tournament field expanded in 1985, only three years (1988, 2000 and 2007) has a 12-seed not survived the opening round.
This year's crop of 12-seed bracket busters comes from myriad backgrounds. Some are brimming with corn-fed, cheese-injected dudes from the upper-Midwest (Wisconsin and Northern Iowa). Another boasts a sharp-shooting San Antonio native with a name Exxon doesn't want you to remember (Western Kentucky's Orlando Mendez-Valdez). And the last, a Pac-10 powerhouse, is just thankful it's not playing in the NIT (Arizona).
For those who subscribe to a cute, cuddly mascot strategy, the dancing blood clot of Western Kentucky is your clear-cut choice. With killer moves as seen below, the Hilltoppers are destined to destroy Illinois:
But for true hoop heads who painstakingly research and agonize over each bracket pick, the most revered program of the group, Arizona, is the logical selection.
At the beginning of the season, turmoil enveloped Tucson. Lute Olsen's sudden retirement combined with inconsistent results on the court frustrated the normally spoiled Arizona fanbase. Despite the unrest, Russ Pennell, who was a radio analyst for rival Arizona State last season, did a brilliant job stabilizing the program and doing just enough to extend the NCAA's longest tournament appearance streak to 25. Frankly, the man deserves a medal.
Even though they squeaked in, don't expect the Wildcats to exit quietly.
At first glance, Arizona's 19-13 mark, 4-10 record in road/neutral contests and five losses in its last six, are justifiably uninspiring. But going beyond the eye test, the Wildcats are an offensive juggernaut poised to wreak havoc on the No. 5 seeded Utah Utes.
Here are three reasons why Arizona is the safest bet among 12-seeds to advance past Round 1:
1) 3-point marksmanship
Utah is an excellent rainmaking team, but Arizona is extraordinary. Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Zane Johnson and Kyle Fogg all shoot over 40 percent beyond the arc. The Wildcats collective 39.8 percent mark ranks 15th nationally. Against Utah's 215th-ranked 3-point defense, Arizona will splash down a barrage of threes.
2) Jordan Hill
Down Under import Luke Nevill is an NBA prospect with exceptional post skills. But so is his interior adversary, Hill. More athletic and active around the offensive glass than the Aussie, Arizona's paint patroller should be able to neutralize Utah's most potent offensive weapon. Earlier this season against teams with notable post presences (e.g. Oklahoma and Gonzaga), the 7-footer was contained. Don't be surprised if Nevill attracts several referee whistles.
3) Zone control
Arizona's matchup zone can be perplexing for teams unfamiliar with it. Although they rank 132nd nationally in defensive efficiency, the Wildcats should induce plentiful turnovers against the loose playing Utes. Utah has surrendered a turnover on 20.5 percent of its possessions, the 184th-best mark in the country. 'Zona has coaxed few mistakes, but Wise and Budinger's quick-hands and general peskiness could prove problematic for turnover prone guards Carlon Brown (2.1 turnovers/game), Luka Drca (2.5) and Lawrence Borha (2.0).
Fearless Forecast: Arizona 75 Utah 70