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March 16, 2014

Arizona earns No. 1 seed in West

Those travel plans to Southern California are officially safe.

Pac-12 Conference regular-season champion Arizona (30-4) earned the top seed in the West Region and will play No. 16 Weber State (19-11) when it begins the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday in San Diego. The game will be played at San Diego State's Viejas Arena, where the Wildcats own an early November victory.

Tipoff is scheduled for 11:10 a.m. and will air on TNT.

"It's an honor, in and of itself, to be a part of it," UA head coach Sean Miller said. "You always hope that as a team, as a program, you can get there to see Arizona pop up as the No. 1 in the West. I think it's quite an achievement for our team.

"The regular season now is over. We all do this for the opportunity to be special in March, and here we are. Now is our opportunity."

It is the program's sixth No. 1 seed, and first since 2003, when it lost in the Elite Eight. The longest tournament run for a top-seeded Arizona team was in 1988, the first Final Four in school history. UA owns a 13-5 record as a No. 1 seed.

A No. 1 seed has never lost its first game in the history of the tournament. Florida (overall No. 1, South), Wichita State (Midwest) and Virginia (East) also earned top seeds.

Led by Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson, the Wildcats dominated league play and won all 18 home games en route to capturing the regular-season title by three games. But UA lost to second-place UCLA in Saturday's Pac-12 tournament championship game, 75-71.

Davion Berry, the Big Sky player of the year, will lead Weber State. The senior guard averaged 19.1 points and was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection.

"The seed, the history of the seed," Miller said, "if we were fortunate enough to advance that's all for the outside world to talk about. That's part of the greatness of the tournament, it's exciting. But we have to focus on the task at hand.

"We're going to play a regular-season champion, a tournament champion," Miller said. "Somebody who's been in the tournament before, who's a fantastic 3-point shooting team. A highly skilled team."

The winner will play either No. 8 Gonzaga or No. 9 Oklahoma State on Sunday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Six Pac-12 teams are in the tournament, including UCLA, Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford and Oregon.

The Wildcats are 48-29 all-time over 30 previous NCAA tournament appearances - including the team's lone national championship in 1997.

Miller is 11-5 all-time in the Big Dance - including 5-2 over two appearances with the Wildcats, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last season.

Miller's previous teams have advanced as far as the Elite Eight (2008 with Xavier, 2011 with Arizona).

The NCAA tournament will begin Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, with the First Four.

A perfect NCAA tournament bracket submission can win $1 Billion in the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge with Yahoo Sports. Join the GOAZCATS.com pool today.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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