- Arizona basketball appeared to have made a quick rebound from the bumbling end of the Lute Olson era with the 2011 run to the Elite Eight. As we know, that all became a premature judgment partially based on Derrick Williams' rise. Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports writes that the Arizona Wildcats are finally back in the nation's elite, and he takes us through the Miller era, his flirtation with Maryland and his recruiting success. The victory against San Diego State was a sure sign the Wildcats had finally arrived back to elitehood.
Miller takes a glance around his office and he smiles when his eyes catch a photo of that starting group following the team's thrashing of Duke in the Sweet 16 just two seasons ago. There sits Perry, Williams, Hill, Jones and Fogg. "That was one heck of a ride," Miller said. But this one's built to last.
- With the upcoming Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl pitting the Arizona State Sun Devils against the Navy Midshipmen, somebody painted ASU's 'A' Mountain blue. This is, of course, the second time this has happened just this year. Oregon got to it first, then fears of Arizona fans doing the same caused the Sun Devils to make an open Google Doc to take guard shifts; Wildcat fans found it and took control of it like Sudanese pirates.
- Part of a new year is looking back at the old. In the Wildcats' case, 2012 had a lot of great moments. As far as the recruiting class for the basketball team, Paul Biancardi of ESPN notes that Sean Miller's haul of 2012 was simply amazing. Two McDonald's All-Americans and one player, Kaleb Tarczewski, who would've been had he been eligible. That's along the lines of John Calipari's haul at Kentucky.
But when you look at what Arizona did last spring and what Kentucky did this fall -- each landing three prime-time players -- it's simply amazing. In recruiting, it's difficult to land a McDonald's All-American type of player, and it's almost impossible to get two. So when Arizona pulled in three of the best big men in the nation for the Class of 2012 (center Kaleb Tarczewski, power forward Grant Jerrett and power forward Brandon Ashley, all ranked within our top 16) it was more than impressive -- it was next to impossible. It's hard enough to get one quality big man, but Sean Miller and staff pulled in three giants who all possess terrific size with different skill sets.
- No surprises here: ESPN's Jason King has Arizona as the best team in the Pac-12 power rankings. They'll open the Pac-12 schedule on Jan. 3 against a Colorado team that is No. 2 on King's list.
- Ken Pomeroy delves into the mythical seventh man (subscription needed), a player who doesn't get the credit of a starter but is of great importance to the team. Just as a sixth man is important to most team's success, the seventh man is like the post-modern, hipster version of the sixth man. Anyway, while especially true for Arizona because of the depth it uses, Grant Jerrett gets an honorable mention as one of the more important seventh men in the nation.
The way I see it, in today's college basketball the seventh man is the new sixth man. There is no recognition for the guys who are second off the bench; they don't get starter's minutes and they rarely see action with a game on the line. Their plight is additionally frustrating because they're on the bench for one of two reasons: there's a bottleneck at their position preventing them from getting on the floor, or their coach doesn't recognize their abilities. Thus they are unlikely to gain Dion Waiters-type fame at any point during the season.