LAS VEGAS -- As dominant as the Arizona Wildcats were through the regular season, they're entering the Pac-12 Tournament without a solid understanding of where they stand in the proverbial "process." Just when it looked like they'd figured it out offensively, two questionable performances against the Oregon schools opened the door of concern.
Luckily, Las Vegas will be a home court of sorts for Arizona.
Wednesday, the tournament kicks off and the game to watch for UA fans is of course the noon MST game between No. 8 Utah and No. 9 Washington.
Who would Arizona rather play?
Probably Washington. It's pretty safe to say that the Utes have presented themselves as a Wildcat killer in the past. Utah's three-center lineup has shown the ability to hamper Kaleb Tarczewski with body blows, and Jordan Loveridge can hold the attention of Aaron Gordon well enough to open up the paint and prevent help defense -- it's a lot like what Brandon Ashley brought Arizona. So then it's on the guards to play defense, and that's hard to do against Delon Wright, who arguably could have challenged Nick Johnson for Player of the Year if the Utes had won a few more games.
Washington is by no means a gimme game, but between Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Nick Johnson, UA can limit C.J. Wilcox without much help. Big man Perris Blackwell had an efficient game against UA last time out, but Tarczewski can handle him better than Blackwell can handle Zeus.
What's necessary to retain a No. 1 seed?
Likely, the Wildcats can assure themselves of a No. 1 seed with one victory on Thursday. While it would definitely be concerning if Arizona gets eliminated early, there's a good chance they earn a No. 1 seed anyway. The RPI, BPI and strength of schedule make them hard to eliminate out of the top-4 teams in the land.
But if the Wildcats lose to Utah or Washington in their first game of the Pac-12 Tournament, all bets are off. The selection committee won't be comfy choosing a team that lost its last two games and finishing with three lackluster performances.
What would we like to see from the Wildcats?
Sean Miller's teams often peak in the NCAA Tournament, but to see an offense attack with more aggression would be nice.
Arizona's ball movement is valued over dribble-drives at times, almost where it makes the offense seem passive to a fault. At the very least, it'd be comforting to see the guards or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson take one or two dribbles to the hoop, kick it out and search for open shots by swinging it about.