56% shooting, 28-30 from the free throw line, essentially equal in rebounding and turnovers.
Most of the time that's punching you a Final Four ticket, but for Arizona on Saturday, that was just the line for yet another agonizing Elite Eight loss to the Wisconsin Badgers, this time in large part to Wisconsin's non-Will Ferrell doppelganger star.
Sam Dekker went unconscious in the second half for the Badgers after the Wildcats closed the first half with a 31-20 spurt to erase an early 10-2 deficit. Dekker was a perfect 6-6 from the floor in the second half including 5-5 from three, none bigger than a dagger rainbow with under 30 seconds remaining to punch Arizona out. The Wildcats, who entered the game with one of the nation's elite defenses, finally ran into its match against the nation's most efficient offense as the Badgers worked the inside/out game flawlessly in the second half.
Arizona dealt with foul trouble all night to its front court with Brandon Ashley going to the bench with two quick fouls (second very suspect) just 90 seconds into the game. However Arizona was able to buckle down and get back to 14-14 after the Badgers' opening run behind a stellar defensive sequence. Frank Kaminsky, public enemy No. 1 in Tucson and for Wildcats fans nationwide after last year's Elite Eight game, led the Badgers with 13 first half points but largely struggled in the opening 20 with the different looks Arizona gave him shooting 5-13.
It was his lack of a defensive presence that Arizona relentlessly attacked throughout the game with Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski repeatedly finding success against him on the block and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson getting to the rim at will. Arizona's biggest problem was the lack of outside shooting, a trait that has plagued Arizona at times this season but had been a strength the first three rounds.
Stanley Johnson was extremely passive and disappointing in what was likely his final game in an Arizona uniform before fouling out late. T.J. McConnell was rock solid again but couldn't get anything going from outside and Gabe York and Elliott Pitts were essentially held in check by the Badgers all game long.
Despite the five point halftime lead, the second half was the Sam Dekker show, and with Kaminsky getting more room to operate in the post and Nigel Hayes contributing a couple key threes, the Wildcats simply ran out of defensive answers despite what was an extremely strong offensive performance by their own standards.
Now Sean Miller and Wildcats fans await the offseason decisions of a few key players regarding the NBA. On top of losing T.J. McConnell to graduation, Stanley Johnson is a near certainty to leave for the draft leaving Arizona without two of its top offensive players. Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley both are very likely to stay given the lack of NBA hype the two have at the moment while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson likely represents the wild card in all of this.
A player whose stock was as high as the lottery in the preseason has been projected to go late first in most mocks and that drop off (if Miller and Hollis-Jefferson agree is accurate after certainly inquiring with scouts/NBA personnel) could be enough to bring Rondae back for his junior season. With the three back in the frontcourt as well as incoming freshmen to fill some wing/back court roles, Arizona likely can maintain a top ten caliber team with Final Four potential. Should RHJ leave, that would certainly make a return to the Elite Eight that much more challenging.
Either way, expect the Wildcats to dwell on another offseason of "what if?" questions as they prepare to try and kick in that Final Four door once again next year.