Exhale Again: Arizona Wildcats keep winning but racking nervesby Scott Terrell on Jan. 07, 2013, under Sports
Are you tired of winning yet?
Last season was a transition year for Arizona Wildcats basketball. There were low expectations, plenty of losses and limited stress.
This year’s UA team is 14-0, No. 3 in the nation. And the fans might not make it to MLK Day.
The Cats’ first two Pac-12 games both went down to the wire but with two different brands of tension. The Colorado game was “Going to lose … going to lose … going to lose … WAIT … WIN!”
Saturday against Utah was “Going to win … going to win … wait … WAIT?! … exhale …. WIN.”
Throw in the San Diego State, Florida and Southern Miss games and Wilbur the Wildcat’s going to have a lot less hair than he did when the season started. This definitely isn’t the 1988 team starting 12-0 by an average score of 87-65.
To say Arizona is living on borrowed time is an understatement. The Cats have taken out time loans to pay off their other time loans.
No, the undefeated run isn’t going to last long. With a trip down the Oregon Trail looming it would be a big upset if the “and O” portion of the UA’s record survives the weekend. Coming home with a road split would be a victory this week and, since the two games after that are at 2-0 ASU and versus 2-0 UCLA, the Cats need to plug some leaks to keep from losing any (if not all) of the next four.
There are two goals right now and they don’t necessarily go together. On the one hand you want to win as many games as you can, by any means necessary, to claim the Pac-12 championship and get as high an NCAA tournament seed as possible.
That’s why the Sabatin00.0 call was so big. The Wildcats needed to defend their home court against the mountain schools and, at the end of the nerve-racking day, they did.
But at the same time you want the players to learn lessons along the way. The team needs to be improving so it peaks in March. Is that happening? That’s where all the question marks lie.
It’s certainly too soon to panic (as much as fans of the No. 3 team can panic) because this isn’t a finished product. If you look at where this year’s top seven players were last season, four weren’t here, one was playing out of position and one was shot.
This is very much a work in progress.
If the team is still shooting 36% in a home game in late February it’s time to be concerned. If Arizona remains stuck in the 60s (the UA has scored fewer than 70 points in six of its last nine games), panic away.
Will it take a couple losses for this team to truly learn what a good shot looks like? Is the sting of some L’s needed to get guys to defend the 3-point line like the season depends on it?
The odds are that first sting will happen very soon. Then we’ll find out how this group responds and we’ll start to see if this squad is going move toward reaching its lofty potential.
If we’ve learned one thing after 14 games it’s that people looking for a simple, calming college basketball team will have to go somewhere else. But if you want to watch games so intense you feel like you’re playing in them, the 2013 Wildcats are here to tantalize – and potentially traumatize – spectators and fans.
Wilbur may want to keep his hat on though.
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