So...things have changed a little bit.
After Saturday’s game, and the return of Allonzo Trier, expectations for the Arizona Wildcats have risen. They are now ranked 7th in the AP Poll, the highest of any team in the Pac-12.
Having already swept the state of California, and not having to travel to the mountain schools, the schedule is also in the Wildcats’ favor to win the conference.
So how do we think they’ll finish conference play? We give our thoughts below, and let us know what you think:
Ryan Kelapire: 17-1. This may seem overly optimistic but the only games I really see Arizona having a chance to lose are vs. UCLA and at Oregon. The rest of Arizona’s schedule is really soft. And I see them beating UCLA (again) and then losing in Eugene, thus getting to 17-1 when all is said and done. Now that Trier is back, this team is special.
David Potts: 16-2. I still think the Wildcats lose to Oregon in Eugene, and though they’ll be favored to win every remaining game on the schedule, they’ll stub their toe in one of those games. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing — Sean Miller would probably spin it as a wake-up call, the team can rally, etc. — but it’d mostly be a product of the randomness of college basketball.
Brandon Hill: I too am much more bullish on the Wildcats than I was heading into league play. Depth was a concern and the inexperience of the freshmen stars was still an unknown as well. Now that we’ve seen a number of league games and, of course, with the reinstatement of Allonzo Trier, the picture is both more clear and much rosier. Winning in resounding fashion in Pauley Pavilion against a top-five UCLA team has us all riding high. I said 13-5 previously and given what we’ve seen I now foresee 16-2, and I don’t think a one-loss league season is out of the question. If the offense we saw against the Bruins can continue and the rotation sets up with the Trier addition the sky is the limit, in Pac-12 play and beyond.
Steve Apter: The top five won’t change from the current standings: Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, Utah, California. Oregon wins at least a share of the regular season crown with at least one loss to UCLA on February 9 and perhaps even a second slip-up while visiting Cal or USC. As hot as Arizona has been over seven games, they still have eleven to go in their Pac-12 slate. They play UCLA and Cal again, who have played them closest in conference so far. Not to mention two matchups against potential lottery pick Markelle Fultz, and their toughest game of the season in Eugene on February 4.
Oregon can match Arizona’s length on the perimeter. The Wildcats canning nine triples against Oregon, as they did against UCLA, would be an ambitious expectation. Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche account for 24% of Arizona’s points and 26% of Arizona’s rebounds this season. Chris Boucher’s size and shot blocking ability, paired with the physicality of Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks (assuming he recovers from his sprained foot), provide the most viable solution in the Pac-12 for defending Arizona’s frontcourt.
Jason Bartel: At this point, I’m much more likely to pick 18-0 over 16-2. The bottom of the Pac-12 just isn’t good enough this year to make me think that Arizona is going to accidentally lose a road game that isn’t in Eugene, and there certainly isn’t a team that I think will come into McKale and win a game. That Oregon game also depends entirely on Brooks’ health. We saw earlier this year how important he is to that team when he missed the first few games and they got off to such a slow start.
I’m going 17-1, with that one loss either coming at Eugene or in Tempe. Let’s take this further. Two-seed in the West, and a potential rematch with Gonzaga in San Jose with the Final Four on the line.