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The past year was good for Arizona, but what about the next?

arizona-wildcats-athletics-recap-highlights-review-preview-prediction-2023 Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As far as years go, 2022 was certainly one of them.

For the University of Arizona, in terms of athletics, it was actually a pretty good one. There were far more highs than lows, and overall when we think of ‘22 we will do so with fondness.

With the calendar set to turn now seems like as good a time as any to really look at the year that was look at what we learned as well as take a stab at what we can expect in 2023.

Men’s basketball

What we learned:

Arizona is officially back

While Tommy Lloyd’s team did not reach the Final Four or win a national championship, the year saw his program regain its status among the country’s elite. The Wildcats won the Pac-12 as well as the Pac-12 Tournament and earned a NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed for the first time since 2014.

The Wildcats also cleaned up Pac-12 awards, had three players chosen in the NBA Draft (two in the first round, one sixth overall).

All that seemed to pave the way for a drop-off the following season, but if it’s to be it’s taking a while. Lloyd’s team is currently ranked fifth while boasting a 12-1 record. They’ve knocked off Indiana, Creighton and Tennessee with an offense that is as efficient as ever. Early bracket projections are favorable, which means 2023 will be expected to offer a deep tournament run.

Oh, and the cloud of potential sanctions was lifted with minimal penalties going forward. Not a bad year at all.

What will happen in 2023:

Arizona will make a deeper tournament run than it did the prior year. Why is that? The post play of Oumar Ballo and Azoulis Tubelis. They give the Cats a duo that will be able to get the team easy buckets as well as to the foul line in a way last year’s squad couldn’t.

Following their run, both players will declare for the NBA Draft. Ballo will be selected in the first round while Zu will go in the second.

Women’s basketball

What we learned:

This program is here to stay

Adia Barnes leading her team to the championship game in 2021 was amazing, in part because it was not exactly expected. The squad lost star Aari McDonald from that team, though, which led to legitimate questions of how the program would move forward without its most transcendent talent.

While the Cats didn’t produce a similar run, they did amass 21 wins, reach the AP top five and finish at No. 19. Cate Reese and Shaina Pellington both proved they could step up as team leaders, while Sam Thomas concluded an amazing career before finding her way to the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, where she was named to the AP All-Rookie Team.

Barns brought in a top recruiting class to pair with a good amount of returning talent, and the result is a 10-1 record and a top 20 ranking once again. Adding to the excitement is what could be an even better recruiting class that has been inked for 2023.

What will happen in 2023:

An incredibly deep team, Arizona will get back into the tournament and reach its second weekend. Reese and Pellington will shine, but unlike the last deep run they will have plenty of help. They will be as tough an out as there is in the tournament.

Arizona softball

What we learned:

There is life in a post-Candrea world

Arizona softball is an institution, though there were questions of if it would still remain as such upon the retirement of Mike Candrea.

The season, especially in conference play, was uneven. But Arizona made it to the postseason and from there Caitlin Lowe’s squad went on an incredible run that ended in the Women’s College World Series.

The question from here, of course, is whether or not Lowe can sustain the level of play and even enhance it. There were a good many defections via the transfer portal, but additions via the portal as well as traditional recruiting have created a team that is not short on talent, and the ‘23 class that signed is intriguing, too.

So while a level of uncertainty remains, it was proven that the program could survive in a post-Candrea world. Of course, Arizona softball is used to thriving, not surviving.

What will happen in 2023:

Unfortunately there will be a step back. While Arizona is one of the few programs that legitimately expects to reach the World Series, the coaching transition will finally catch up to them. It’s not that the Cats won’t be solid, because they will be.

Arizona baseball

What we learned

Chip faces a challenge, but he’s up for it

If nothing else it was obvious how much Chip Hale cares. The first-time college coach was as energetic as ever, and he guided a talented team to a solid season. His stars played like stars, though there were not enough of them in the lineup or on the mound to make a serious run.

Given the number of players who stuck around through the coaching change and to now, it’s clear that Hale is the type of coach who players want to play for.

The good news is a handful of impact players return, though the Cats saw some of its top talent leave either for the MLB Draft or the transfer portal. There were some additions, too, in hopes of offsetting the losses as well as bolstering a roster that had some noticeable holes.

What will happen in 2023:

A big step back. Arizona lost a lot of its offense and until proven otherwise you cannot expect the pitching to improve enough to make up for it. On the bright side, Chase Davis will look like a top MLB Draft pick.

Arizona football

What we learned:

Football can be fun!

It was about the end of 2021 and at the very beginning of 2022 where the makeover of Arizona football really started to happen. Additions via traditional recruiting as well as the transfer portal brought an influx of talent and, at least on paper, it seemed as though the team should be substantially better.

It was.

Arizona won five games, the last of which led to them reclaiming the Territorial Cup with a victory over ASU. It was oh-so-satisfying, and when you add up all that transpired you get a program that is clearly moving in the right direction.

Now, the transfer portal took a bite out of the roster toward the end of the year, but the recruiting class is nothing to laugh at and there is still plenty of talent available in the transfer portal.

What exactly next season’s team will look like remains to be seen, but 2022 showed us that the coaching staff can really recruit and, at least offensively, really coach when there is talent to work with.

What will happen in 2023:

Arizona will go bowling! That’s right, the team will win at least six games on the backs of an even better offense and a borderline-respectable defense. Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan will each tally more than 1,000 yards receiving, while Tanner McLachlan will surprise and essentially be the third receiver in place of the departed Dorian Singer. On the other side, don’t be surprised when Ephesians Prysock and Tacario Davis are impact players at corner and the team’s pass rush is improved as its younger players get more snaps. Oregon transfer Justin Flowe will stay healthy and start to live up to his potential.

Oh, and the Territorial Cup will remain in the Old Pueblo.