Like other sports seasons, college basketball in many ways is a six-month journey which tests team’s intestinal fortitude.
Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats would be a perfect case study judging from the past few weeks.
An unblemished 13-0 start marred by an ugly loss to UNLV.
Then two dominating wins to open Pac-12 play followed by a close road loss at Oregon State.
It’s merely the nature of the beast for the perennial power ‘Cats who will get everybody’s best game, as evidenced in Las Vegas and Corvallis, Oregon.
Each team seems to take on their own identity at different times and if Saturday night at McKale Center was any indication Miller’s team may have hit their stride.
“Arizona’s really good,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “I think they have a chance to get a lot better.”
In Saturday’s dominance of Utah, UofA used one of Miller’s calling cards to suffocate one of the highest scoring and most efficient offenses in the conference.
“If they’re going to do anything that they want to do, like go to a Final Four or win the [National Title],” Bilas explained to Cesmat. “They’re going to have to do it with defense first. They can score but they’re not a great scoring team.”
One player who took defense to heart first over the weekend was freshman Stanley Johnson. He erased a foul-plagued first half with 18 points and nine rebounds en route to being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. His aggressive ball-hawking pressure helped lead to easy offensive
Bilas has liked what he’s seen to this point from the Fullerton, California native.
“I think he’s had a really good year for a freshman,” he said of Arizona’s leading scorer and rebounder. “He has done a marvelous job…I think he’s going to continue to get better. I like him a lot as a player.”
With their big win over the Utes the Wildcats pulled even with Utah and Stanford atop the conference standings at 4-1. UofA will look to build on their weekend momentum when they travel to the Bay Area schools this week, starting with a showdown against the Cardinal on Thursday night in Palo Alto.