Angelo Chol is the key to Arizona's run for an NCAA tournament bid

The numbers don't put the Arizona Wildcats out of the chase for the NCAA tournament. Bruce Pascoe did a nice job of breaking down the various rankings -- a much-improved 62nd in RPI, 42nd in Sagarin and 38th in KenPom -- following a Bay Area sweep last weekend.

Nothing's guaranteed, and with a roster decimated by injuries and poor performance that took it from a 10-man rotation to seven, the luck isn't on coach Sean Miller's side.

But the poor run of luck just might have forced Miller and company into finding a sense of urgency. In doing so, it's forced Kyle Fogg to step up enough to earn the Pac-12 Player of the Week award after averaging 18.5 points and 4 assists in two huge victories.

More importantly, it's forced Arizona no other choice but to give Angelo Chol a look-see at the center spot.

And at the team's most lacking position, the move might've found a cure to all of the Wildcats' biggest problems.

Chol played 16 minutes against the California Golden Bears last Thursday, putting up eight points, four rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes. Against the Stanford Cardinal two days later, he contributed four blocks in 20 minutes, time that the 6-foot-9 athlete hadn't seen since the second game of the year against Duquesne.

Now you wonder about Arizona's chances had Chol been this confident and solid against Colorado or Oregon, two losses that greatly hurt the Wildcats' position in the Pac-12 standings.

And sticking with the theme of pure numbers being the end-all, be-all, the case of UA's tournament chances are the same as the case of Chol's impact. Chol's specialties are blocks and dunks, and though those are two plays in basketball that are +/- two points on the scoreboard, they're often momentum swinging plays.

"The way he's been right now, it's a huge difference on the defensive end," Fogg said of Chol to the Daily Wildcat. "Guys see him block one shot, throw it into the second row, you think twice before you drive it in there and lay it up. That's a huge impact that a lot of people may not realize that he has on the floor."

Though he's out of position playing center, Chol's length can't be discounted as being a better discouraging defensive option than Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill, to no fault of their own.

Even if the Wildcats can't get hot when it counts in the Pac-12 Tournament in March, there's the opportunity to earn an at-large bid should they defeat the schools they're supposed to (USC, Washington State, ASU, Utah) that remain on their schedule. And if they can pull off a victory against two of three tougher schools in Colorado, Washington or UCLA, it might even be enough to finish in the top three teams in the conference.

Angelo Chol is the piece to the puzzle that can make that happen.

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