Walton Feeling Zona’s Sweet 16

March MadnessA No. 12 seed into the Sweet 16, huh?

“I tried to tell everyone already,” said Luke Walton without too much prompting regarding his Arizona Wildcats. “My teammates were all getting on me for picking Arizona because I was showing favoritism to my school, but I’m a realist. I just told them what was going to happen. I have them going to the National Championship game.”

While ‘Zona still has a long ways to go to get there – they’d have to beat Louisville, the Michigan State/Kansas winner and likely either UCONN or Memphis – Walton’s already feeling pretty good. He correctly picked 38 of the 48 possible games played in rounds one and two, and was the only participant in our Lakers.com March Madness contest (he ranks third behind Shannon Brown and Adam Morrison) to correctly take Arizona to the Sweet 16, where they’ll face Rick Pitino’s squad.

“We have a tough matchup against Louisville, but we have two kids starting for Arizona that are from San Diego, which definitely helps,” said Walton, who coincidentally happens to be from San Diego. “We have a tough point guard in Nic Wise – you need a tough point to succeed in the tourney – and we have one of the best big men in the country in Jordan Hill. That’s the recipe for success right there.”

Now, if his teammates are talking trash, Walton’s not listening.

“The things is, my teammates aren’t even allowed to talk to me about it – except for Shannon (Brown) and Adam (Morrison), because they’ve got Michigan State and Gonzaga still going,” Walton explained. “If your team is out of it, you can’t speak to the people that have teams still playing for something. You can’t talk trash – I mean you can talk to me, just not about college basketball.”

So if Brown or Morrison wants to have a nice lil’ NCAA conversation with Luke, it’s all good. On the other hand, an example of guys who aren’t allowed to speak to Walton about college hoops are Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar, whose UCLA Bruins lost in the second round to Villanova.

“That’s what happens when you don’t win your conference or conference tournament, you get a higher seed and have to go up against a team playing great basketball in their hometown (Philadelphia),” said Farmar. “I took the hit in my Lakers.com bracket with my Bruins pick to win it all, but if I’m going down it’s going to be with my boys.”

Fair enough.