Monday, October 12, 2009

More On Arizona

Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn checks in today with an article on Arizona that mirrors a lot of what I said a couple of days ago. He has a little bit of background on the recruiting of players like Kyryl Natyazhko and Solomon Hill. But the general theme is the same one I talked about, that Sean Miller has done an excellent job of recruiting, and will have this team loaded sooner rather than later.

That said, Winn doesn't get into one issue that I talked about, and whose importance can be gleaned by a quick glance at Wildcats message boards, which is the fact that they've now been to 25 straight NCAA Tournaments. The all-time record is held by the North Carolina Tar Heels, who went to 27 straight from 1975 through 2001. Since it seems pretty obvious that the team will be better in 2010-11 and 2011-12 than in 2009-10, the one thing stopping Arizona from breaking that record will be this coming season. Can they keep the streak alive?

I've talked about this a few times (here and here, for example). They have lined up an out-of-conference schedule that will either be somewhat difficult or very difficult depending on how the Maui Invitational works out (they open against Wisconsin, then play Colorado or Gonzaga in their second game, and then Maryland, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati or Chaminade in their third game). In addition to that tournament, they also play UNLV, NC State and BYU at home, as well as a road game at Oklahoma. So they'll end up playing somewhere between three and seven teams from the RPI Top 100 out-of-conference, which is good. In several of the last few seasons Arizona has made the Dance because of a tough schedule that led to good computer numbers.

That said, at this point I'm leaning slightly against a Tournament appearance this season. I love the athleticism and the talent that is being recruited, but they just need too much to fall into place. All of the players need to learn a new system, they need to find a way to rebound even while going small (since they're going to be extremely thin in the frontcourt), and they've got to win with a very young team with no clear elite talents (like they had in Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill last year). I would not count this Arizona team out, and I'd be shocked if they're not at least on the Bubble as we head into February, but they've got to prove something to me to get into the BP65. Right now they're on the outside looking in.

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