Come to think of it, the last year in Arizona Athletics wasn’t too bad. Wildcats across various sports had excellent seasons, while the teams themselves did a good amount of winning.
Rather than settle for acknowledging that fact, the choice of violence by way of choosing, and thereby sort of ranking, has been made. So the goal of this piece is to look at the 2022-23 athletic year that was (and seasons that were) and pick out the very best games. It’s a purely subjective exercise, of course, and there are plenty of options to choose from.
Without further ado, here goes nothing.
Football: Beating ASU and reclaiming the Territorial Cup
This one is pretty obvious, right? Arizona had better wins, but none were as satisfying as the last one. The victory ended a five-game losing streak to the in-state rival and the way it happened was, shall we say, dramatic.
In truth Arizona should have won the game more comfortably. The Sun Devils were not a good team and early on appeared ready to be run off the field. But the Wildcats made just enough mistakes while ASU made just enough plays to keep it close, and after Arizona re-took the lead with 8:53 left it was the defense that came up with not one, but two stops to secure the victory.
The final one, an Isaiah Taylor interception off a Jacob Manu pressure, will be a play long remembered by anyone who cares about Arizona Football. Michael Wiley’s 214-yard, 3-touchdown performance will also go down in Arizona lore.
Honorable mention: Knocking off San Diego State in the opener, a win that served notice that this season would be different.
Women’s basketball: Knocking off Utah (for the second time)
OK, so we all know Arizona really should have gotten the win against Utah on the road a month prior, but refs. At any rate, Adia Barnes’ team was confident when facing Utah again, and for good reason. Of course, it helped that Shaina Pellington scored a career-best 35 points in leading Arizona to a win.
Besides avenging the previous loss and earning a win over a conference rival, Utah was the highest-ranked team the Wildcats beat and came into the game riding a seven-game winning streak. Arizona was going to be an NCAA Tournament team, but this win showed they were a team capable of beating the country’s best.
Honorable mention: Crushing then-No. 18 Baylor in Dallas. A top-20 road win on national TV is never a bad thing, and when you blow your opponent out? Perfection.
Baseball: It has to be crushing ASU 20-0, right? I mean, 20-0!
Nonconference or not, defeating your rival 20-0 is awesome. Arizona was sputtering along for most of the season and less than a month earlier was swept by the Sun Devils. While it was reasonable to expect them to win the midweek game against ASU, the final score was a pleasant surprise.
Chase Davis, Mac Bingham and Kiko Romero all homered, while Tony Bullard did so twice. Just one starter did not record a hit, but DH Garen Caulfield still walked twice. It was an offensive outburst for a team that was known for its offense. What was a bit of a surprise was the pitching. Cam Walty started and allowed just five hits in seven innings, striking out seven in the middle of what became a 22.1-inning scoreless streak for the Nevada transfer.
It was the baseball equivalent of 70-7, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Honorable mention: Run-ruling Stanford 14-4 in the Pac-12 Tournament. We can’t know for sure, but it’s likely that win propelled the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament. Then again, the entire Pac-12 tourney run could land in this space.
Men’s basketball: Hey UCLA, Vegas is Wildcat Country
Arizona and UCLA have had some great, important games of late, and this one was for a championship. The teams had split their regular season matchups, and the rubber match was tight for a bit before it looked like the Bruins were going to pull away. Arizona battled back and it was a back-and-forth affair late, with the Cats taking the lead for good on a Courtney Ramey three with 16 seconds left.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of the game — it took Tyger Campbell missing a free throw to keep Arizona out front — and then another stop was necessary to secure the victory. It was an ugly game, with a final score not indicative of what each team was capable of offensively. But a win’s a win and a tournament championship is a tournament championship.
Honorable mention: Azuolas Tubelis drops 40 in a revenge victory over Oregon. The Ducks were not a great team this season and Arizona had bigger wins, but that individual performance in a game Arizona needed gets the nod, especially since the game was on ESPN.
Softball: Beating top-10 Virginia Tech is a good sign, right?
Ideally, your best game does not come early in the season. Then again, this was hardly an ideal softball season.
Yet, the 6-2 victory over then-No. 8 Virginia Tech, a win that improved the Wildcats to 6-3, was the kind that made you think this team could hang with anybody. Devyn Netz was excellent on the mound, allowing just one earned run while striking out six, and the bats provided enough to win by a comfortable margin.
Unfortunately the victory was not a sign of what was to come.
Honorable mention: Beating No. 7 Arkansas was nice, as was crushing the Sun Devils 13-4 in five innings in the Pac-12 Tournament.
That’s not all
One cannot highlight Arizona’s year without mentioning the work put in by the men’s tennis team, which made it to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, the women’s golf team that once again had an excellent season, or Jordan Geist, who won the NCAA Championship in shot put.
So there we go. Not all wins are created equal, and these are the victories that stand out the most.
Or are they? If you've got other suggestions, drop them in the comments section (or yell at @theAdamGreen on Twitter)!