The Arizona Wildcats enter this edition of the NCAA Tournament as a six seed after finishing fourth in the PAC-12. Sean Miller's side ended the regular season with a 25-8 record while going 12-6 in conference. With all of the new faces on the Wildcats' roster, this season was always going to be one of uncertainty.
A season of change
Last season, Arizona was loaded. TJ McConnell ran the offense, Stanley Johnson scored at will and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was one of college basketball's best defenders. All three are now in the NBA. That is a lot of production missing that would hurt most schools the next season. But Arizona is not most schools.
They reload every year with talent that most schools would dream of having. This year was no exception. Allonzo Trier, despite his injury, was one of the best newcomers on this years squad. It took a month or two for him to find his groove but once he did he became a scoring machine. More times than not, Trier would go about his work quietly and put up 20+ points multiple times in a row. He is a definite threat on the offensive end and if the freshman can get going, he will be tough to stop.
One of the biggest surprises this season for the 'Cats though has been the play of Ryan Anderson. The former Boston College Golden Eagle had to sit out a year before putting on the Zona jersey. Once Anderson did, he became an instant fan favorite. His work around the rim is second-to-none. Andeson will use his big body to wear down the opposition's big man and control the glass.
Their lone loss in the non-conference schedule came against Providence in the Wooden Legacy. This defeat came on the heels of losing four-year center Kaleb Tarczewski. However, that was not the reason why they lost as the Wildcats held a significant lead throughout the game. Kris Dunn put on an absolute show. Dunn is one of the best players in all of basketball and on that night, he scored 19 points off the bench en route to the upset.
During the regular season, Arizona struggled on the road. The first two losses of PAC-12 play happened on their road trip of the season in Los Angeles. UCLA handed Arizona their first loss in conference before USC followed up a with a big win of their own. If there was something positive to takeaway from this trip was that neither loss was a blowout. In the loss to the Bruins, it took a last-second shot from Bryce Alford to take down Arizona. Against USC, the Trojans had to endure four overtimes before they finally got their win.
Arizona will have to come out focused from the beginning of each game if they are to make a deep run this March. They are not in the cozy confines of the McKale Center and will need to stick to their game plan.
What is Arizona hoping for in March?
Arizona is a school that always has lofty goals during this part of the season. They are known for their consistent appearances in the Tournament. but with the young and inexperienced faces in the squad, what is the end goal? Reaching the sweet-sixteen bid will be good enough for this year considering the part of the draw that they are in.