The end is here.
Arizona clinched a share of the Pac-12 title with a win Thursday against Stanford, and can now win it outright with a victory over the Bears, or a USC loss to UCLA.
Saturday’s tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Networks, and here are some things to watch for.
Soak it in
This is going to be the last home game for several Wildcats, so enjoy them while you can.
Obviously there’s the seniors Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Keanu Pinder, and Talbott Denny — but then there’s also Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins who are all likely headed for the NBA at season’s end.
What makes this year’s Senior Day so unique — in a bad way — is that this will likely be Arizona’s most talented team for at least a year or two. The Wildcats have zero 2018 commits right now and the turmoil the program is in will make it hard to attract recruits for the foreseeable future.
So chances are you’re not going to see players of Trier and Alkins’ caliber anytime soon. And you certainly won’t see anyone of Ayton’s caliber again in McKale because, well, no one can quite match that level of play, even when Arizona is recruiting at its best.
So soak in every moment you can Saturday. The vibe in McKale will be much different next year.
It’s a matter of how, not if
Arizona is not going to lose to Cal. It’s just not going to happen.
KenPom gives the Wildcats a 97 percent chance of winning. I would bump that up to 99.7 percent.
Essentially, Arizona is a virtual lock to win the Pac-12 title outright, and it is just a matter of how the Wildcats make that a reality Saturday. Will they win by 10? 20? 30?
Conference championships aren’t all that special to Arizona fans, who always have their sights set higher, but they aren’t something to take for granted, either.
And again, given the state of the program, it could be the last one for a while.
Will Talbott Denny play?
Tucson native Talbott Denny has only appeared in one game in McKale Center, and that was all the back on Nov. 10 when Arizona opened the season against NAU.
Denny, a transfer from Lipscomb, grew up a Wildcat fan so seeing him get some run and a senior send-off would be special.
But in order for that to happen, Arizona needs to be ahead comfortably in the second half. The good news is that it probably will — the Wildcats are favored by 20.5 points.
Return to normalcy
There was quite the fanfare surrounding Thursday’s game because it was the return of Sean Miller and Allonzo Trier.
Saturday’s game represents the return of something else for the Wildcats — normalcy.
All the off-court chaos has subsided, and this will be treated as just another game, which is a nice change for an Arizona team that is trying to refocus before the postseason.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire