PHOENIX -- Just hours before the University of Arizona Wildcats tip off against the Buckeyes of Ohio State, a group of enthusiastic U of A alumni, including, of course, April Warnecke, gathered in the 3TV parking lot to remind Arizonans to Bear Down and root for the only Arizona team in the NCAA Tournament.
With a 27-7 record, Arizona is ranked No. 6. Ohio State is is No. 2 with a 28-7 record.
The winner gets much more than bragging rights between best friends: While nobody in either uniform would suggest this game is the true regional final, both teams realize the winner of this meeting between powerhouse basketball schools will be a strong favorite to make the Final Four. With underdogs La Salle and Wichita State playing the late game, Ohio State and Arizona are the only seeds in the top eight left in what looks like the least attractive regional.
"We're not caught up in the sexiness and all that," Arizona guard Mark Lyons said. "I feel like my teammates are handsome, but that's (beside) the point."
Arizona should have a home-court advantage as the regional's closest school to Los Angeles by far, with thousands of Wildcats fans expected to make the trip to cheer on a team with seven players from Southern California. The Wildcats had a huge advantage two years ago in the West Region final in Anaheim, although UConn still advanced on the way to the national title.
Arizona and Ohio State have never met in the NCAA tournament.
The game gets under way at L.A.'s Staples Center at 4:45 p.m. Arizona time; it will air on TBS.