The Arizona Wildcats were resting after an impressive sweep of UCLA and USC when they got some unexpected help from Pullman, Washington. WSU beat Washington Sunday night to drop the Huskies into a 1st-place tie with Arizona.
As a result the Cats will be carrying an extra burden to the Bay Area. Sitting on top of the standings means additional pressure and a larger bull’s-eye.
Ain’t it fun?
I said it wouldn’t be long before the Cats were playing for 1st place again, but I thought it would be longer than 14 days.
Washington is still the favorite to pull away but we should enjoy this while it lasts. Arizona Basketball is in a pennant race! Do the scoreboard watching. Do the schedule analysis. A meaningful February is back!
The goal now is to get to the Feb. 19 home game against Washington within one game of first place. Arizona has been calling for a rare “white-out” at McKale and now the atmosphere could be even more electric. Two ranked teams, 1st place on the line. I get the chills just thinking about it.
How do we get there? UW’s next five games are at the Oregon schools, the Bay schools at home and at ASU. It’s hard to find any losses there for the Huskies. That means the Cats have to go at least 4-1 over the same stretch. Arizona’s schedule features games at the Bays, at ASU and WSU at home. Split this upcoming week, beat last-place ASU, and beat the Cougars at home and all eyes in the western basketball world turn toward Tucson.
How did we get here? The game is so much easier when you’re draining 3’s. During the current three-game winning streak the Wildcats are shooting a combined 52% on 3-pointers. Jesse Perry has made his last three attempts from downtown. MoMo Jones has nailed four of his last five. It wouldn’t be wise to assume any of those numbers continue.
Then there’s the issue of the most famous pinky finger in the state. Derrick Williams looked like he was wearing a bowling glove on his shooting hand. Is that going to cause problems down the road?
The Costco-sized bandage didn’t seem to cause any difficulty on Saturday. Williams reached 20 points again on a mere 6 shot attempts. He tied a career high with 3 made 3-pointers. Considering it happened against USC was a reminder that the Wildcat Universe needs to celebrate Tim Floyd Day every June 9. The former SC 3 all started against the Trojans and combined for 39 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
By the way, as fortunate as Sean Miller was to land Williams sight unseen maybe Williams got just as lucky. Floyd’s plan was to play Williams as a small forward. Would he be as polished a player if he spent all his time trying to beat people off the dribble or hanging out at the 3-point line? It’s safe to say he’s getting better coaching now.
Thanks, O.J. Mayo!
Are you fired up yet? Yes, the Pac-10 is down. Yes, you would need most of your fingers to count the Lute Olson teams that could beat this one, but none of that matters. We’re looking at a team that improved dramatically from Year 1 to Year 2, and has improved even more since the start of this season.
Win a conference road game this week and you get to keep playing for 1st place. Get swept at Stanford and Cal and the party’s over.
Love the pressure.
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