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Pre-Duel Pleasantries: Arizona

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Crossing over to talk to Jason Bartel

St. Mary's v Arizona Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

For the second time in three years, the Musketeers are meeting up with the Wildcats in the Sweet 16. To get ready for the game and the reunion, we talked with Jason Bartel over at Arizona Desert Swarm. Let’s see what he had to say.

1.) What were the expectations for this Arizona team and how is the fan base feeling right now?

Expectations have changed throughout the season. Before the year started, it was Final Four or bust. Then the Ray Smith injury and Allonzo Trier thing happened and expectations dropped down a little bit. Then Trier came back against UCLA, Arizona dominated that game, and expectations shot right back up. Then the team struggled a bit down the stretch, including a home loss to UCLA, which lowered a lot of fans' expectations again. But now after the Pac-12 Tournament and the first two games in the NCAA Tournament, people certainly expect to win this game and want the rematch with Gonzaga in the next round.

2.) What exactly has made Arizona's defense so good?

Honestly I think it's just because that's what Sean Miller's specialty is. Kadeem Allen is the best on-ball defender on the team (by a lot in my opinion), and the progress of Lauri Markkanen on that end of the floor has certainly helped because Dusan Ristic is susceptible to getting beat up by big men inside.

3.) Has anyone ever told Sean Miller about undershirts?

That hasn't been an issue...yet. He joked after that Wichita game last year that he got an endorsement deal, and I kind of half believe him on that if we're being real. Playing in an NHL arena this weekend should help that situation too.

4.) Ohio can get pretty cold in the winter. Sell me on why Xavier fans should visit the great state of Arizona.

Well, March is the best time to visit Arizona. Those Ohio fans have both Reds and Indians spring training (in the same ballpark no less). Then you've got the great scenery, perfect weather (it was 90 degrees on Tuesday), and I think people underrate how much there is to do in Tucson and the rest of the state. I personally love living in Tucson, especially at this time of year, and there's always something to keep yourself occupied.

And no snow. That's good enough, right?

5.) Score prediction?

I'll say that this game stays close for most of the game, and then similar to Arizona's game against Saint Mary's last week, they'll open it up a little bit at the end. I'll go 69-62 Arizona.

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I live in Salt Lake City, so I personally love the snow. Thanks again to Jason for his insight and time. Let’s hope for a good game and for X to play on Saturday.