Undefeated Wildcats near another school record
The 2013-14 men’s basketball season will almost undoubtedly go down as one of Arizona’s best season performances in program history, and it’s only halfway over.
The No. 1-ranked Wildcats (17-0, 4-0 Pac-12)are on the cusp of achieving a 19-0 record, the longest winning streak since they began playing only collegiate opponents.
Recently, statistical analyst Ken Pomeroy had the Wildcats favored in every remaining regular season game. According to Pomeroy, Arizona has a 7.6 percent chance of finishing the season undefeated. The only other NCAA Division I team that has a better chance of going undefeated according to his calculations are the No. 5 Wichita State Shockers (15.3 percent).
While Wichita State (18-0, 5-0 Missouri Valley) has a higher possibility of finishing the regular season with an unblemished record (partly due to the fact that the Shockers, a mid-major team, face an easier strength of schedule), many analysts predict Arizona to stand as the last unbeaten team.
In Arizona’s 73-53 win over USC last Sunday, this year’s Wildcats made their first mark in the record book by becoming the first Arizona basketball team to begin a season 17-0.
The surging Wildcats are now getting within striking distance of some major historic achievements. Former Arizona head coach and basketball hall-of-famer Lute Olson — who led the Wildcats to their only national championship in 1996-97 — compiled two school record-setting, 19-game-winning streaks during his time as the Wildcats’ head coach, first in 1992-93 and again in 1997-98.
With a seemingly easy homestead approaching for Arizona — in which it hosts ASU, an injured Colorado team and Utah in the friendly confines of McKale Center — the Wildcats could conceivably enter their next biggest challenge against Stanford and Cal in the Bay Area with a 20-0 record.
According to Pomeroy, Arizona has over a 90 percent chance of winning all three of those games. The matchups between Stanford and Cal hold Arizona at a 76 and 70 percent advantage, respectively.
This may all sound like it’s a good thing, but pressure of when Arizona will finally lose is constantly building. Additionally, the longer the Wildcats stay undefeated, the larger the target on their back becomes. In press conferences, head coach Sean Miller has repeatedly made a point of saying how hungry teams are trying to take down the No. 1 team in the nation, especially when Arizona is at home. As long as the Wildcats stay undefeated, they will continue to get every team’s best shot that they face.
While many fans are quick to wish for an undefeated 31-0 regular season for the Wildcats, others see benefits in a first loss coming before the NCAA tournament begins. Their rationale? That getting the team’s first loss out of the way would relieve the pressure of being undefeated, which would in turn allow the team to focus more on perfecting small details that could come back to haunt them in March.
Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17