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The #15 Princeton Tigers (21-8) and the #2 Arizona Wildcats (28-6) will meet in Sacramento, CA, on TNT on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament first round. Both teams won their respective conference tournaments and are now matched in March Madness’s South Region.
If you want insight into this cinderella vs blue blood matchup, you’ve come to the right place. We will preview both teams and the matchup and share our Princeton vs Arizona predictions.
Let’s start by breaking down both of these teams.
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The Wildcats secured a two-seed by defeating UCLA to win the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. It was an impressive run after Arizona dropped two of their final three regular season games. While they are 6-1 when playing ranked teams, four of their six losses came against teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona has a massive advantage coming into March Madness thanks to one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the country. That schedule includes wins over San Diego State, Creighton, Indiana, and Tennessee, three of which came on a neutral court.
The Wildcats have been one of the best teams in the country on offense this season. They are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, field goal percentage, rebounding, and assists. Arizona is also in the top 20 in three-point percentage and fast-break points.
The defense has been a different story for this Arizona team. The Wildcats are giving up the most points in the Pac-12 despite holding opponents to a 40.8% field goal percentage. They have not improved as the season wound down, allowing 71.2 points over their previous five games.
1st in Pac-12 in scoring (82.7 PPG)
1st in Field Goal Percentage (41.3%)
1st in three-point percentage (38.2%)
8th in free throw percentage (70.9%)
1st in rebounds (39.4 RPG)
1st in Assists (19.2 APG)
10th in turnovers (13.4 TO/G)
12th in the Pac-12 in opponent scoring (71.5 PPG)
5th in opponent field goal percentage (40.8%)
6th in three-point percentage (32.8%)
8th in fouls (17.20 F/G)
6th in steals (6.1 SPG)
9th in blocks (3.2 BPG)
F Azuolas Tubelis: 19.8 PPG / 9.3 RPG / 1.1 SPG / 57.5 FG%
C Oumar Ballo: 14.2 PPG / 8.5 RPG / 1.3 BPG / 64.9 FG%
Courtney Ramey: 10.6 PPG / 1.1 SPG / 40.9% 3PT%
Kerr Kriisa: 10.1 PPG / 5.2 APG / 37.3 3PT%
The Tigers punched their ticket for March Madness by winning the Ivy League Tournament Championship and securing the automatic qualifier. They were able to top the Ivy League regular season champs in Yale, a team they had lost to twice. It was an impressive win against a Yale team that was good enough to secure an at-large bid for March Madness.
Princeton had success this season thanks to being one of the most balanced teams in the Ivy League. They are in the top half of the conference in almost every major category, with their biggest strength being their rebounding. While the Tigers won’t overwhelm you with their size, they play a physical style of basketball and fight their way to many rebounds.
The Tigers have faced two tournament teams this season, finishing with a 1-3 record against them. That includes a loss to Iona on a neutral court and two regular-season losses to Yale. While it’s not a great record and shows their limited experience, their 74-65 win over Yale in the Ivy League Championship Final shows they belong in their NCAA Tournament Field.
3rd in Ivy League in scoring (76.0 PPG)
4th in field goal percentage (45.9%)
5th in three-point percentage (34.3%)
4th in free throw percentage (70.9%)
1st in rebounds (39.3 RPG)
5th in assists (13.6 APG)
3rd in turnovers (12.7 TO/G)
3rd in the Ivy League in scoring (68.6 PPG)
3rd in field goal percentage (42.1%)
4th in three-point percentage (32.6%)
8th in fouls (18.2 F/G)
2nd in steals (6.3 SPG)
7th in blocks (3.3 BPG)
Tosan Evbuomwan: 15.0 PPG / 6.2 RPG / 4.8 APG / 52.7 FG%
Ryan Langborg: 12.1 PPG / 1.0 RPG
Matt Allocco: 11.0 PPG / 4.9 RPG / 40.7 3PT%
Total: 154.5 (110)
These teams have had very different paths to Sacramento, with Arizona ranking 25th in strength of schedule this season while Princeton was 183rd. Still, both made runs in their conference tournaments as a two-seed and upset the regular season champs.
Arizona is 16-16-2 against the spread this season and has covered four of their last five games. They have gone over the total 18 times and have done so in seven of their previous ten.
Princeton went 15-12 versus the spread and has also covered four of their last five games. They’ve gone over 16 times, including in eight of their last ten games.
These teams did not meet in the regular season or share common opponents.
While March Madness gives us plenty of upsets, it’s hard to see this being one. Arizona has proven to be one of the best teams in the country, while Princeton likely needs the Ivy League’s automatic qualifier to make the NCAA Tournament. Princeton is outmatched at every position and has no one that will be able to play with the size of Arizona’s top two stars. The Tiger's biggest advantage in the Ivy League was their ability to rebound, so without that, it’s hard to imagine this game being anywhere close.
This is why we feel confident in the Wildcat's cruise to an easy first-round victory in the South Region of March Madness.
We are happy to give up the points to roll with Arizona -14.5 (-110 at DraftKings Sportsbook) on Thursday afternoon.
Location: Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA
Game Time & Date: Mar 16, 2023, at 3:10 PM EST
TV Network: TNT
Streaming: NCAA March Madness Live
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