McKale conference championships banners 2014

There won’t be another one of these if the Cats don’t figure things out in a hurry.
Photo by Wildcat Universe

A weekend of upsets had the Arizona Wildcats poised to make a move toward the top of the polls with a win against Oregon State. Instead, the Cats became part of college basketball’s two-day upheaval.

Another poor road showing led to more changes to the rotation resulting in uncertainty heading into a crucial week in the Pac-12 race.

No. 2 Duke lost at North Carolina State, No. 4 Wisconsin fell at Rutgers, and that was after No. 5 Louisville lost the day before. Arizona was in position to get a rankings boost from Court-Storm Sunday™ but the Cats were swamped by an orange-colored wave themselves.

Now, instead of moving back into the driver’s seat for a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, the UA is about to tumble out of the top 10 for the first time since the end of the 2013 season.

Who were the idiots breaking down seeding scenarios in early January anyway?

Oh.

So, self, it’s time to put all the NCAA tournament talk on the shelf – in the dark corner of the very top shelf in the pantry. The reality is Arizona’s Pac-12 title hopes are now in jeopardy of going on life support before Martin Luther King Day.

Utah, the Pac’s other top-10 squad entering last week and one of the teams about to pass Arizona in the polls, has been destroying people. Since losing to Kansas by three in December the Utes have won six straight by an average of 24 points.

But wait, there’s more. That average margin of victory goes up< to 27 if you only include the three conference games. Not done yet. The “worst” win in Utah’s current streak was a 13-point victory against the UNLV team that beat Arizona.

I think you get the idea. The Utes are really good this year. And they’re on a roll. And they’re coming to Tucson this week.

You can’t win a conference championship in the first five games so you can’t completely crown the Utes even if they get it done at McKale. However, it would be highly disadvantageous for the Wildcats to fall two losses behind Utah with a trip to Salt Lake City still looming down the road.

The worst part of the loss to Oregon State wasn’t the 26% shooting in the first half. It wasn’t even allowing the Beavers to shoot 65% in the second half.

No, the most troubling aspect of Sunday night was the realization that we are officially halfway through the regular season (that was game 16 of 31) and UA coach Sean Miller still isn’t comfortable with his rotation. Does he want to play big (the shooting-guard-free lineup that started the last two games)? Does he want to go small (the jarring postless fivesome that finished the game in Corvallis)?

This armchair point guard says open and close with your five best guys. That means riding your senior point guard, your two three-year starters inside and your pair of first-round picks on the wings. Be longer and stronger than anybody on the outside and make stifling perimeter defense your identity. Find out why your two post players are being out-rebounded by your small forwards and fix it.

This is still a very talented team and the Cats would be right back in first place with two wins at home this week. But this talented team with first-place aspirations is out of time for tinkering.

If Arizona wants to remain the best team in the Pac-12 it has to nail down its best lineup and play like the best team starting now.

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