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Arizona Wildcats basketball: Reflecting on a magical first half of the season

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For the first time since 1987, the Wildcats have started the season with a 12-0 record.


Just about everything has gone right for the Arizona Wildcats through the first two months of the season. Sean Miller's team is 12-0, which is tied for the best mark in school history. And despite bringing in six new scholarship players to the program at the start of the year, the team has bonded and developed very well together.

Here is a recap of the non-conference slate in Tucson. It's been quite a ride.

Storyline of the Season: It was mentioned in the opening, but it has to be Arizona starting off 12-0 and currently holding the No. 3 spot in both major polls. A lot of folks around the college basketball world expected the 'Cats to be good, but few expected this.

Team MVP: This is a tough call. There are four worthy candidates, in my opinion: Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson, Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom. All four players have had big games for the 'Cats, especially Hill and Lyons. Parrom doesn't have the stats the three others do, although he sees less playing time and is a sixth man off the bench. His energy and presence off the bench has been invaluable.

While the three seniors have been great, Johnson is the MVP so far. He's averaging 12.7 points a night, which is tied for second-best on the team, and there's little doubt he's been the most consistent player on both ends of the court. Add in his game-saving block against San Diego State and Johnson has been the most valuable 'Cat, even if it's just by a nose.

Team LVP: It's tough to really pick a least valuable player (or players) on a team with a perfect record. But if we're going to nitpick, it's been the freshman class. This is not to say the four freshmen have been disappointments. They all came in with plenty of accolades, and there's no doubt all four have bright futures ahead of them.

The biggest issue has been consistency. Brandon Ashley started off strong, but then disappeared for a couple of games. The same can be said for Grant Jerrett, only in reverse order. Kaleb Tarczewski has had big nights (eight points, 13 rebounds against Miami) and nights where he's lost (zero points and rebounds against San Diego State). Gabe York, to no real fault of his own, has been buried on the bench due to the team's depth in the backcourt.

Game of the Year: The Diamond Head Classic championship with SDSU was great, but nothing will top the Florida game. Playing in front of a raucous crowd at McKale Center, the Wildcats' comeback in the final minutes was something out of a Hollywood movie. The win put UA back on the national map, and it made for a night the city of Tucson won't forget.

Storylines for the second half:

Can Arizona get to No. 1 in the polls? -- The new year will begin with only Duke and Michigan ahead of Arizona in the polls. Both of these teams face early challenges in conference play. If they lose and the Wildcats can avoid an early Pac-12 loss, they'll be the nation's top team for the first time in more than a decade.

When (if ever) does Arizona lose? -- The Wildcats will be heavy favorites in every home game from here on out. On the road, a couple of trips to Boulder, Eugene and Westwood will have the UA faithful nervous. There's also always the chance a hungry team gets overlooked by Arizona and pulls the upset. Does an upset happen, or do they run the table?

How do the freshmen develop? -- We've all seen flashes of brilliance from the three freshmen bigs. Coach Miller tends to see his teams emerge in February and March. Do any of the freshmen turn into stars during the final month of the season, or does the inconsistent play continue as they keep adjusting to the college game?