The Arizona Wildcats lost another close basketball game and are barely hanging on to the top half of the Pac-12 standings.
It’s not unexpected, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun.
At first glance things don’t look terrible. Yes, the Cats are in 6th place but they’re only one game behind the co-(co-co-co)-leaders in the loss column. Turn either the Oregon or Colorado close losses into wins and you’re tied. Win them both and you’re alone at the top.
But you don’t get do-overs and the Oregon State win was this close to being a loss in regulation. Going back to mid-November Arizona has won twice in the same week only two times: New Mexico State and NAU, plus Oakland and Bryant. No Pac-12 weekends there.
Inspecting the remaining schedule the Cats still have the two hardest road trips left (Cal/Stanford and Washington/WSU). It looks a lot more like a 9-9 or 10-8 season than 12-6. The UA’s at-large bid believers are fading fast.
With an Elite Eight and conference championship already in Sean Miller’s pocket you forget he’s still rebuilding but this is definitely a transitional roster. No size, can’t shoot on the road (under 20% on 3s in three of the last four games), and no one who can reliably create his own shot.
So we lower expectations and wait.
I will be watching every game and hoping for wins the rest of the way, because that’s what we fans do. But I won’t be upset if the season ends the way it’s going right now.
What will upset me is if the players who will be around next year don’t get better. The improvement of the guards is crucial for the future. Josiah Turner is clearly making progress. He’s buying in, the game is slowing down for him and we’re starting to see the court vision and passing that made him such a valued recruit.
Turner’s backcourt mate, however, has been struggling as the season wears on. Nick Johnson hasn’t shown much lately besides outside jumpers and those have been sporadically successful the last few weeks. The roles were reversed a little over a month ago so there’s still plenty of time for Johnson to make developmental strides.
Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom are also big to watch when looking toward next season. Hill has had some very strong stretches recently (minus the random WWE move against Utah) and Parrom just had his best weekend of the season.
These guys just need to keep listening in practice, bring maximum effort in games and get more experience playing together. If it comes to pass, root for getting into the NIT over nothing at all.
We got through one year without the tournament and, if needed, we’ll get through another. Dream big for next year. Dream even bigger about 2014.
What makes this awkward is Arizona Basketball hasn’t been a “wait till next year” program for almost thirty years. Fans feel almost dirty coming to grips with 5th or 6th place.
Hang in there, Wildcat fans. The hoops team’s current address is not a permanent residence.
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