Caleb Love and Arizona Lay a Brick vs. Clemson

If you picked the Arizona Wildcats to get through their regional semifinals and finals and make it to the Final Four, it was understandable. Heading into the Sweet 16, they were the favorites in the West, paying +120.

But you were also denying Arizona’s history when making that bet. No one loses to lower seeds more than the Wildcats.

In 2016, as a sixth seed, Arizona lost in the first round to No. 11 Wichita State. In 2017, Arizona was a top seed, but lost to No. 11 Xavier in the Sweet 16. The next year, No. 4 Arizona lost to No. 13 Buffalo in the first round. They were the top seed in 2022, but lost in the Sweet 16 to No. 5 Houston. Last year, they were the No. 2 seed, but lost to No. 15 Princeton in the first round.

That’s six straight losses to a lower-seeded team (Thursday night made it seven). Five times they have been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed since 2017, and not once has Arizona gotten past the Sweet 16. The fifth-such second weekend disappointment came on Thursday against Clemson, 77-72.

Caleb Love, Arizona Shooting Off

Transfer guard Caleb Love was the Pac-12 Player of the Year for Arizona, which was the Pac-12 team of the year. They did lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament, but this season, they were easily the class of the conference.

On the season, Arizona shot 48.5% on the season, good for 15th in the country. From three-point range, they were 36.6%.

On Thursday against Clemson, the team shot 37.3% overall, and a pitiful 17.9% from three. Love shot 27.8% overall (5-for-18), 0% from three (0-for-9), and he had three turnovers to just one assist.

Love was equally bad when the Wildcats lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, (2-for-11 and 6 points), and this was not how he was supposed to end his college career. In 2022, he was in the Sweet 16 as a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels, and he scored 30 points in a win over UCLA, 27 of them in the second half. In the national semifinal that followed, he scored 28 points in a win over Duke.

Thursday night against Clemson, he scored 13.

“It’s tough,” said Love through tears. “I love these guys. We’ve been through so much. I’m sad we couldn’t finish it. I took the shots that I work on. They just didn’t fall for me tonight. It was obviously the worst time for them not to fall.

“It’s very disappointing. Our goal was to win a national championship. For it to end like this is brutal.”

Clemson One Game from History

Like Alabama, its next opponent on Saturday, Clemson is a football school. They have three claimed national championships in football, and 27 times they have won their conference. In men’s basketball, they have won their conference exactly once, and this is their first Elite 8 appearance since 1980.

Like Alabama, Clemson has never been to the Final Four. On Saturday, one of these two football schools will make basketball history.

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