COLUMN: Nightmare on 1 National Championship Drive in full effect
UA loses to WSU 69-55
Ira Lee reacts to the game against Washington State University on Saturday, Feb. 9 at McKale Center. Arizona lost to WSU 69-55.
You’d have to go back to the year when the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" film was released to find the last time when Arizona men’s basketball lost five games in a row. That’s 35 years ago.
After getting slashed by a different version of Freddy Krueger – the Washington State Cougars in this case – the Wildcats are in their own version of Nightmare on 1 National Championship Drive. Granted, it’s not quite as catchy, but we’re in the midst of Arizona’s horror story nonetheless.
Last year, when the chaos and uncertainty hit the program, the quick fix was winning basketball games and focusing on the hope of a Final Four. This time, there’s no savior walking through the doors of McKale Center, at least not until summer, when the No. 1 recruiting class arrives – if it holds together.
The struggles on the court are just as glaring as those off it.
The Wildcats had no answer for Washington State on Saturday evening, much like it hasn’t been able have an answer for the cloud that has hung over the program since last September. Arizona, now 14-10 and 5-6 in an abysmal Pac-12 Conference, has no choice but to finish out the year hoping the off-court drama doesn’t get worse than its performance against the 11th-place team in the Pac-12.
UA missed 42 of its 61 shots against WSU, while Robert Franks' 10-17 shooting showcase nearly outscored all of Arizona’s players with 34 points. The Wildcats didn’t have a lead at any point during the game and the 14-point loss was the team’s largest home loss since 2009.
“This is certainly new, but it happens, and these are the circumstances,” head coach Sean Miller said.
The circumstances also involved Arizona's athletic director Dave Heeke calling an impromptu press conference during halftime to address various UA athletic topics, but most heavily, the state of the basketball program.
Heeke’s statements consistent of the vanilla variety, only recycling his stance of backing Miller.
“We support coach Miller and his leadership of this program. And anything that has been reported or has been talked about to the contrary of that is completely false. I want to be very clear on that,” Heeke said.
So yes, even with the drama surrounding the team for the second year in a row, it seems Miller’s job is safe moving forward.
However, the season is anything but safe. There’s no timetable for the return of Brandon Williams (right-knee swelling), so the losing streak could continue to grow. The Wildcats hit the road again, facing Utah and Colorado next week.
You wouldn’t have to dig too much deeper to find when six losses in a row was a thing. It was actually in the same season that UA last lost five in a row (two separate losing streaks), the 1983-84 season – also known as Lute Olson’s first year as head coach at Arizona.
With Arizona’s chances of winning games dwindling by weekend and no immediate solution to the NCAA Investigation into the program, this is a nightmare that’ll be hard to wake up from.
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