Loss hurts, not ends, Arizona's Pac-12 chances
Wildcats still have a chance in mediocre Pac-12 Conference
The Arizona Wildcats took on the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, January 12, 2012 at Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.
BOULDER, Colo. — It’s no secret that at the end of the season Arizona will look back at its 64-63 loss to Colorado on Saturday as the one that got away.
Even Sean Miller admitted it to a certain extent.
“They’re a good team and that’s what’s disappointing about tonight’s game. It would have been a great victory for our team,” he said. “Just to battle these guys the way we did and have a chance to win — but we had our chance and we didn’t win.”
If the Wildcats don’t make the NCAA Tournament, they may look back at Kyle Fogg’s free throw, Solomon Hill’s botched rebound, Kevin Parrom’s airballed 3-pointer or 17 missed triples and agonize over what could have been.
Add in that Pac-12 leaders Stanford and Cal both fell on Saturday as well and the UA’s loss becomes that much tougher to stomach. A road sweep would have catapulted Arizona into a tie with Washington for second place in the conference, which is almost unthinkable given the Wildcats’ number of tough losses this season.
The UA now sits in fourth in a conference that will most likely only send two teams to the big dance. But while Saturday was deemed by most as a must-win game for UA, there is still a shot at redemption.
“We definitely put ourselves in a position where we were going to come in here and get a road sweep and almost be tied for first because in our conference, everyone’s getting beat,” said senior forward Jesse Perry. “We just put ourselves in a harder position but I don’t think it’s over for us right now.”
The Pac-12 is an absolute mess. Just when a hierarchy appeared to be taking shape, Stanford found a way to lose back-to-back games to the Washington schools while Cal fell to Wazzou.
With 11 games remaining, the Wildcats have more than enough time to string together a few wins and steal the wide-open conference. Miller said that the Arizona isn’t “the team to think about a conference race,” but as the postseason inches closer, the Wildcats have to have it on their minds.
The question then becomes: Is Arizona good enough to go on a run and steal the conference and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament?
As Miller said, the Wildcats showed strides against the Buffs, which suggests it’s a possibility. Perry’s play is one of those strides as he went for 20 and 10 against Colorado and averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds on the road trip.
“Jesse was really ready,” Miller said. “He played two great games on this trip. It’s great to see him playing as well as he is. It’s always difficult to lose but I thought we did some really good things on this trip.”
The Wildcats also only averaged only 10 turnovers against the Buffs and Utes, making Miller’s sarcastic talk of catching the ball somewhat of a distant memory.
Josiah Turner continues to progress as well, evident by his nine points, three assists and a steal — all in the first half — against Colorado. Kevin Parrom is also coming along as he averaged 9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2 assists on the road trip.
Sean Miller said at the beginning of the season that it’s not going to be how this team starts or plays in the middle of the season that matters, but rather how the young Wildcats finish.
Despite the heartbreaking loss at Colorado, the Pac-12’s constant parity coupled with Arizona’s strides give the Wildcats a puncher’s chance at making a run at the conference title and sneaking into the NCAA Tournament.
— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops.