Given the 5-0 start the Wildcats have enjoyed highlighted by the great play of not only some of its veterans but also the two high profile freshmen the fan base spent the off season fawning over, it is only natural for the fans of the program to have visions of significant success this year.
While the schedule to date hasn't been that daunting you won't find me downplaying the team's success thus far. Any fan, student, player, coach, etc. who has been around the program can tell you it has been a while since the Wildcats have had a team with this talent and potential. While the program has seen a few teams make Sweet 16 runs and even an Elite Eight trip just three years ago, anyone who is honest with themselves can probably admit none of those teams were truly great teams and a Final Four trip would've come as a big surprise.
In 2013-2014, the Wildcats appear to have all the parts in place to make a Final Four type run and through five games Arizona hasn't shown many problems. In fact the one game where Arizona had to hold on late for a win (at San Diego State) the Wildcats were, putting it delicately, a little shortchanged on the whistles. Frankly the play on the floor wasn't reflective of the final score and an Arizona fan watching that game had to feel that if Arizona could simply avoid sending the Aztecs to the line every trip that it was going to be a win.
Still the challenge at the Madison Square Garden will present Arizona with a test it simply hasn't been asked to play this season. Going on the road to a hostile environment and getting a win was a good indicator of the makeup of this team but now the Wildcats go across the country in one of the world's largest basketball environments facing potentially its toughest foe to date. Arizona opens with Drexel on Wednesday night and while it is never appropriate to overlook an opponent, it's hard for me to not do so, one of the many reasons I won't ever be on any Arizona Wildcats head coaching search. Come Wednesday Arizona will be playing for not only a spot in the NIT Season Tip-Off Finals, but a chance to likely test themselves against another potential national title contender.
Should Arizona get that match up one has to wonder how the schedules to date may impact the game, specifically the fact Duke has already had a major neutral court match up with Kansas while Arizona hasn't been presented with that challenge. Still as a fan base these are the games you want to see. An Arizona-Duke match up would give Coach Miller, the players and fans a realistic idea of where the team stands right now and what improvements need to be made to best give the team a chance in March to contend. If we're being honest with ourselves, Arizona has basically overwhelmed teams with talent through five games. Players are coming off the Wildcats bench that would start for 85-90% of the country.
A game with Duke would require the Wildcats to play their best game to date as they go up against an opponent who you know will be well prepared, you know will execute and you know will bring elite talent. Frankly it's a challenge the basketball team at Arizona should welcome and feel excited to be a part of. As of now it's only a couple probable wins away from happening.
The season is still in its infancy and plenty will change on the college basketball landscape between now and March but the Wildcats get a chance to be a part of a March-like atmosphere in the first few weeks of the season. After a handful of blowouts and games where Coach Miller could empty the bench late I think we're all ready for a marquee game to see just where the Wildcats stand on the national totem pole. Enough is enough with the cupcakes.
Bring on Duke.