TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 10: Jesse Perry #33 (C) of the Arizona Wildcats walks with teammates Jordin Mayes #20 and Kyle Fogg #21 during the college basketball game against the Clemson Tigers at McKale Center on December 10, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Tigers 63-47. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Reflecting on the season thus far, and what to expect moving forward.
The Arizona Wildcats battled against the Washington Huskies on Saturday afternoon, but eventually fell short in the closing minutes, all-but-ending their chances at a Pac-12 regular season title for the second consecutive year. On one hand a fan realizes this year was going to be a transition year with the departure of so many talented players, but on the other you cannot help but think about the buzzer beater losses and blown opportunities along the way.
Now, with three games and a winnable conference tournament remaining, the Arizona Wildcats are at a crossroads. Do they bounce back and look to make a decent run in the NCAA Tournament, or to they turn back to old habits as they have before?
This week will be the final two home games for seniors Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Jesse Perry. Fogg and Lavender came to the UA in a time of crisis, a time when few others would, and have stuck around throughout all the turmoil to be Wildcats for life. Perry only had two seasons in Tucson, but had an instrumental role on both of his teams.
Other than these three, it is a safe bet to believe every other member of the roster will return next season other than possibly Solomon Hill or Kyryl Natyazhko. Hill could potentially forgo his senior season and opt for the NBA Draft, but that seems unlikely with a second round pick likely being his ceiling at this point. Natyazhko, once a four-star recruit, could return home to Europe after seeing very little playing time in recent months.
Here are a few more thoughts on the program for this season and the future:
- This may not be directly relevant to the team, but something mentioned in the Washington telecast really stood out to me. The announcers mentioned that a senior on UW had the chance to become the first Husky to play in an NCAA Tournament as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. More than 100+ years of basketball and no player had ever reached four straight tournaments. Arizona has failed to make March Madness exactly one time in the last 27 years, meaning just about every Wildcat senior in nearly three decades had accomplished what only one Husky might or might not achieve this season. Think about that for a moment.
- The loss of Kevin Parrom for a good majority of the season hurt even more than just about anyone could have imagined. Despite playing in nearly 20 games, Parrom simply was not himself in that time. This would be a completely different team if he would have been healthy for the entire season.
- Angelo Chol, Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner all possess the potential to have very strong careers at the UA, but they simply were not ready for the amount of minutes they were called upon for, especially Turner. It's pretty funny when some wondered just a few short months ago whether or not he would be bolting for the NBA after one season.
- This year should be a lesson and a reminder to everyone that no matter how highly regarded a recruit is, there is absolutely no telling what they will amount to in college.
- That being said, the 2012 recruiting class cannot get here quickly enough for their sheer size alone.
- Solomon Hill is quickly becoming one of the better players in Arizona history over the last decade or so. Hill was the lone commit from the Lute Olson era to re-commit to Sean Miller and we are all seeing why he was so highly regarded out of high school. When he asserts himself, there are few players better on the west coast. We can only hope he returns for his senior season.
- For the hand he was dealt this season, Sean Miller has done yet another incredible coaching job. How many teams would be in contention for a March Madness bid with one legitimate rotation player taller than six-foot-six?
- Should this Arizona team make the NCAA Tournament, I would not be surprised at all to see them advance to the Sweet 16 with the right matchups. I also would not be surprised to see them lose by 20+ points in the first round with the wrong matchup. You just never know which team is going to show up.