The Arizona Wildcats made a national statement in this past weekend’s Pac-12 Tournament by taking out two of the now-three-seeds in the NCAA Tournament on back-to-back nights.
Prior to this weekend, the Wildcats had gone just 1-4 against their top opponents this year, but with the UCLA and Oregon wins under their belts, there’s a lot more talk about this team’s National Championship hopes.
So what was most eye-catching about the weekend in Las Vegas (other than the arena)? Here’s what we’ve got on that:
What stood out to you the most from the Pac-12 Tournament performance?
Robby Leano: I gotta give it to Lauri Markkanen’s performance. Prior to the tournament, Markkanen had not scored two straight 20-point games since January. He then scored 20 against Colorado in the quarters, and 29 against UCLA in the semis. During the three-game span of the tournament, Markkanen shot 53% from the field and 47% from three-point range. Add his performance to Allonzo Trier’s “Most Outstanding Player” performance, and you have the Arizona team that ultimately won the Pac-12 Tournament. I’ve made it clear before, that was the key: Markkanen needed to have a good game alongside Trier.
Matt Sheeley: The aggression. The Wildcats attacked UCLA and Oregon. I feel like this team has a chip on their shoulder and went to Las Vegas to make a point. That's the type of attitude you see, more often than not, from national champions.
Alec Sills-Trausch: Rebounding. They out rebounded Oregon by ten (35-25), UCLA by six (38-32), and Colorado by one (34-33). This ability to corral loose balls is key to any team’s winning strategy and if U of A can keep this up, they should be able to plow through most of the tournament’s competition.
Ryan Kelapire: The fact that Arizona beat two good teams. Heading into the tournament, Arizona was 1-4 against top-25 teams and just 2-4 against top-50 teams.
Had the Wildcats lost to UCLA and dropped to 1-5 against top-25 teams, I’m not really sure how you could have felt good about their chances of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. But by beating UCLA and Oregon, Arizona at least showed it is capable of doing so, and now I feel confident saying that when Arizona is playing its best basketball it is at least in the conversation to be a national championship contender. I didn’t feel that way before.