Arizona draws No. 1 seed, favorite’s role in the NCAA South

The NCAA South Region will cycle through San Antonio, with second-weekend games scheduled on March 24 and 26 at the AT&T Center. Here is a look at the top four seeds in the South:

(1) Arizona

Record: 31-3

Streak: Won six straight

Last 10: 9-1

At a glance: Arizona won the Pac-12 regular season and postseason tournament championships en route to the No. 1 seed in the South.

Route to San Antonio: The Wildcats are playing in San Diego on the opening weekend, taking on either Bryant or Wright State on Friday. Both are 16 seeds vying for a spot in the Round of 64. If the Wildcats reach the second round, they’ll play either (8) Seton Hall or (9) TCU in the Round of 32.

Names to watch: Tommy Lloyd, in his first year in Tucson, was named Pac-12 Coach the Year. Guard Bennedict Mathurin was Pac-12 Player of the Year. Seven-foot-one center Christian Koloko is the Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player and first-team all conference. Six-foot-11 forward Azuolas Tubelis is first-team all conference, while guard Pelle Larsson is Sixth Man of the Year. Guard Dalen Terry made the all defensive team.

(2) Villanova

Record: 26-7

Streak: Won five straight

Last 10: 9-1

At a glance: Villanova drew the No. 2 seed in the South. The selection came after it finished 16-4 and a game and a half behind Big East regular-season champion Providence in the regular season. Villanova went on to win the conference’s tournament title at Madison Square Garden with victories over St. John’s, Connecticut and Creighton.

Route to San Antonio: Villanova will play in Pittsburgh on the opening weekend of the tournament. The Wildcats will take on 15th-seeded Delaware (22-12) in the first round on Friday. If they advance, they’ll draw either (7) Ohio State or (10) Loyola-Chicago in the Round of 32.

Names to watch: Coach Jay Wright led Villanova to the 2018 NCAA title at the Alamodome. Point guard Collin Gillespie is the Big East Player of the Year. Averaging 15.9 points and 42 percent from 3-point territory, he came up big in the tournament final, sinking a couple of threes in the last few minutes to secure a 54-48 victory over Creighton. All-Big East, scond-team member Justin Moore averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds. Other starters are Jermaine Samuels, Eric Dixon and Brandon Slater.

(3) Tennessee

Record: 26-7

Streak: Won seven straight

Last 10: 9-1

At a glance: The Volunteers finished 14-4 in the SEC regular season to tie Kentucky for second place, one game behind Auburn. After winning the SEC tournament title last weekend in Tampa, Fla., defeating Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M along the way, they earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA South.

Route to San Antonio: They’ll play in Indianapolis on Thursday against 14th-seed Longwood, Va. (26-6). Two days later, the winner of that game will face either (6) Colorado State or (11) Michigan.

Names to watch: Former Texas coach Rick Barnes has led Tennessee to a fourth NCAA appearance in his seventh season at the school. Barnes reached the round of 32 in 2018. He made the Sweet 16 in 2019 and then lost in the first round last year. Guard Kennedy Chandler leads the team at point guard, averaging a team-best 13.8 points and 4.6 assists. Chandler was MVP of the SEC tournament. Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi were named to all-tournament.

(4) Illinois

Record: 22-9

Streak: Lost one

Last 10: 6-4

At a glance: Illinois tied with Wisconsin for the best record (15-5) in the Big Ten regular-season. The Illini opened in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament and lost by two to the Indiana Hoosiers. Illinois on Sunday earned the No. 4 seed in the South.

Route to San Antonio: The Illini are on their way to Pittsburgh. They’ll open the tournament Friday against No. 13 seed Chattanooga (27-7). If they win, they’ll move on to the round of 32 against either the (5) Houston Cougars or the (12) UAB Blazers.

Names to watch: Fifth-year Illinois coach Brad Underwood has had 20-win seasons in his last three seasons in Champaign. This is his second-straight NCAA appearance after last year when the top-seeded Illini were upset by Loyola-Chicago in the second round. Junior Center Kofi Cockburn made first-team all conference. Guard Trent Frazier was a second team pick. Forward Alfonso Plummer shoots 40 percent from 3-point territory.

Arizona coach Sean Miller linked to basketball corruption scandal

Add the name of Arizona head coach Sean Miller to the burgeoning corruption scandal in college basketball.

ESPN is reporting that Miller discussed with a representative for a professional player agent a plan to pay $100,000 to center Deandre Ayton.

Authored by Mark Schlabach, the story is linked here.

The corruption investigation by the FBI came to light last fall with indictments of officials in and around college basketball for bribery and fraud.

Among those indicted were assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal.

The story intensified earlier this week when the NCAA ordered Louisville to vacate victories over a four-year period that included the 2013 national title.

Louisville fired coach Rick Pitino last fall after Pitino was linked to a plan to pay a recruit.

Pitino has not been charged criminally.

Another chapter in the tale unfolded Friday when Yahoo Sports reported that players from more than 20 Division I teams had been identified as possibly breaking NCAA rules, according to information uncovered in the probe.

See the story, written by Pete Thamel and Pat Forde, here.

Some of the players identified are being held out of practices and games leading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Texas, for instance, is holding out guard Eric Davis Jr.

But other schools, namely Duke, Alabama and Michigan State, are allowing players linked to the investigation to play.

Those players include forward Wendell Carter at Duke, guard Collin Sexton at Alabama and Miles Bridges at Michigan State.

With the reports swirling about Miller and Ayton, Arizona is set to play tonight at Oregon.

Miller was unavailable for comment to the media Friday night, per a story at See the story here.

Arizona (22-6, 12-3) and Southern Cal (20-9, 11-5) are 1-2 in the Pac-12 standings.

The 7-foot-1 Ayton, averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds, is considered a potential NBA lottery pick if he comes out for the draft this summer.