Some days are bigger than others in the world of college sports. For fans of the Arizona Wildcats, this Saturday looms large.
We’ve followed the highs and lows that have brought the football team to the New Mexico Bowl. Now, as we always do this time of year it’s time to get up to speed on what’s been happening with the BasketCats.
If you’re like me and you’ve been preoccupied with football up until now, we’ve got you covered.
What did I miss?
Arizona has beaten seven average-to-bad teams, five at home and two on the road. The Cats’ strength of schedule is not good.
Who is the best freshman?
When the season started it was Grant Jerrett. Now is it Brandon Ashley who was the first of the trio to score 20 in a game, or is it Kaleb Tarczewski who has started every game and leads the team in rebounds? If this is an ongoing debate with all three getting votes the Cats are in good shape.
So none of them is the second coming of Derrick Williams?
Not Freshman Derrick Williams, no. By Williams’ third college game he had established himself as his team’s best player. None of this year’s rookies is dominating like that just yet.
Then how is the team supposed to win?
This is a far better overall team than the 2009-‘10 squad that didn’t make the NCAA tournament. Going into this year there were two ways the UA could be great: Either someone emerged as a true superstar, or all the talent came together to form a deep, balanced team that can beat you in different ways each night. It’s clear that this year Sean Miller will be using recipe B.
How can it be good not to have a superstar?
You can survive a game when one of your key players has an off night. Mark Lyons went 0-for-7 from the field against Southern Miss and Arizona still won. Solomon Hill threw up a 2-for-16 clunker versus Clemson and the Wildcats still pulled off the road victory. The UA has three players averaging a dozen points or more and two more averaging over eight points. This year’s portfolio is diversified.
Can I see any of this balanced team if I don’t have Pac-12 Network?
Actually, yes. Only one of Arizona’s next 13 games is on Pac-12 Network. Here’s the TV schedule for the rest of the non-conference games (all times Arizona/Mountain):
|Sat Dec 15||Florida||Tucson||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|Tue Dec 18||Oral Roberts||Tucson||7 p.m.||P12N|
|Sat Dec 22||East Tennessee||Honolulu||8:30 p.m.||ESPNU|
|Sun Dec 23||TBA||Honolulu||TBA||ESPN2 or ESPNU|
|Tue Dec 25||TBA||Honolulu||TBA||ESPN2 or ESPNU|
How is the rest of the Pac-12 doing?
Eh. The bad losses once again outweigh the good wins. Oregon won at UNLV to give the top-25 Rebels their only loss so far and the Ducks’ only loss is to undefeated Cincinnati. That’s solid but the Ducks’ strength of schedule is dreadful. Colorado beat Baylor, who beat Kentucky, but UK is just 6-3 and Baylor is only 5-3 and neither team is currently in the AP poll. The Buffaloes were last seen losing to Kansas by 36.
On the other side of the ledger Stanford lost to Belmont, Utah lost to Sacramento State and WSU lost to Pepperdine. Washington, by itself, has lost to Albany, Colorado State and Nevada. So…eh.
What about the UCLA Bruins? Weren’t they supposed to be good?
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA’s top recruit, was ineligible and then he wasn’t. Muhammad was reinstated in time for the Bruins to lose at home to Cal Poly and two rotation players from last year have left the program. The Bruins did beat Texas on a neutral court…but Texas lost to Chaminade (and USC)…and the neutral court had almost as many people on the court as in the stands.
Does this mean the Arizona/Florida game is all-or-nothing for the Pac-12?
In terms of conference pride, yes. It’s also very important for Arizona’s RPI but you can’t put the entire season on this one game. The Florida contest will show us where the Wildcats are right now but there are still three months before the final grades are handed out.
(And Kurt Heyer is a Latino metal drummer. So multi-talented, these UA guys.)
Give it to me straight: Final Four?
This looks like a classic “year away” team. In 2013-’14 you’ll have Nick Johnson as a junior, all three big men back as stronger, experienced sophomores and transfer T.J. McConnell plugged in at the point. That’s a great start to a peak season.
Of course, don’t tell that to seniors Hill, Lyons and Kevin Parrom. They don’t get a next year and they’re trying to make the peak happen in three months.
On Saturday we’ll see what kind of progress they’re making.
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