The new year has arrived. 2011 has come and gone. We have also reached the final post in our series here at SB Nation Arizona recognizing the "best of" Arizona sports in 2011. We conclude with the team of the year, and the choice is easy.
The winner: Arizona Diamondbacks
This choice was easy. The team was not expected to do anything this past season. In almost every single season prediction, they were picked to finish either last or second-to-last in the NL West. Instead of a third straight year in the cellar, they shocked the world with a 94-68 record, winning the West by eight games over the defending world champion San Francisco Giants.
The most amazing part of it was the fact that they did it with players like Ryan Roberts, Gerardo Parra and Willie Bloomquist as regulars in the starting lineup.
The bullpen sparked the turnaround with the acquisition of David Hernandez and J.J. Putz, who anchored the eighth and ninth innings all year.
While even we mocked the team for their grit and hustle before and at the start of the season, it turned out that those characteristics were key in their winning games in late innings.
They did not make it out of the first round of the playoffs, but were part of a thrilling five-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
With a year of so many disappointments from our local teams, the Diamondbacks gave fans a treat.
Honorable mention: Phoenix Coyotes, U of A Basketball
Not that anyone noticed, but the Coyotes fought through low attendance and uncertainty regarding whether the team would even be in Arizona, as the sale of the team was its own circus.
They finished 43-26-13, good enough for sixth in the West, getting swept in the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings.
The Arizona Wildcats played better than most expected and had probably the most exciting player of the year in Derrick Williams. They made it to the Elite Eight, beating number one seed Duke before bowing out in a thrilling, yet heart-breaking 65-63 loss to the eventual NCAA champion UConn Huskies.