The world isn't ending for Arizona basketball
Parity in college basketball
Thursday night, an exceptionally talented and determined UCLA team entered hostile McKale Center and dominated Arizona from opening tip until the final buzzer sounded, leaving the Wildcats with an 11-point defeat and their adoring fans with several concerned questions.
Less than 48-hours later, the young and ultimately flawed Bruins got run out of the Wells Fargo Arena by ASU, suffering a humiliating 18-point loss.
No, UCLA didn’t trade away its players on the drive up to Tempe, though forward Travis Wear was out with a concussion. And no, ASU isn’t 29-points better than the Wildcats by the transitive property.
College basketball is just full of parity. After a wild weekend of games, that point was nailed home again.
Twelve of the AP Top-20 lost once— and in four cases (Louisville, Kansas State, Minnesota and VCU) twice— this past week, including four of the top six teams. Regular season losses like this are bound to happen in the one-and-done era of college basketball.
Just don’t tell that to the fans at some of the blueblood programs. Yes, I am talking about Arizona.
“It’s weird walking around campus and going to class with a loss,” freshman Grant Jerrett said. “Obviously none of us like to lose. We’re not used to losing. It was just something we had to deal with, learn from it and get better from it.”
Jerrett said he doesn’t try to justify the defeat or put it into context, if fellow students or fans ask him about it.
“We just tell them we lost, plain and simple,” he said.
While the freshmen are still adjusting to the “sky is falling” mentality in Tucson after a defeat, head coach Sean Miller said he is no longer fazed by continual falls of the supposed basketball giants. He said he knows why it happens as well.
“You have these really good coaches and programs with upper classmen, older players, in many situations, competing with talented, young players,” he said. “I don’t care how many talented, young players you have. Experience still really matters, especially if you have a system and a way of doing things.”
Miller said he will use Arizona’s next game at Washington to show the difficulty young teams face. A team of veterans already knows what to expect when it travels to Seattle and later Pullman this weekend to play the Washington schools. Considering the last time the Wildcats won at the Bank of America Arena was in January 2007, seniors Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom will have plenty of warnings to tell to the freshmen.
At least Arizona has that luxury and it’s something Miller sees as a real strength.
“It’s one of the things we like about our team is that we do blend experienced guys with these freshmen and hopefully that takes us where we want to go,” he said.
However, things are getting a little tougher for the Wildcats’ dream of winning the Pac-12 title. With Oregon continuing to win, they now hold a two-game lead on Arizona as well as the tiebreaker.
“We’re 17-2, we’re happy where we are right now,” freshman Kaleb Tarczewski said. “We’re a great team. We obviously have a lot to improve on, but that comes with time. We’re just working hard every day and honoring the process.”
Tarczewski, Jerrett and fellow freshman Brandon Ashley will need to quickly learn what it’s like to play in Seattle if the UA wants to avoid another loss.
Yes, Washington is slumping with three straight losses. But, as the law of parity in college basketball states, any road conference game can be tough.
Fortunately, the competitiveness in the Pac-12 comes from a strong distribution of talent, not a complete lack of it like last year.