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As Arizona men’s basketball approaches stretch run, the worst may be behind Wildcats

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-osu-beavers-oregon-ducks-espn-gameday-weekend-pac12-expectations Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are making their return to College GameDay this weekend, with the ESPN crew set to visit McKale Center ahead of Saturday night’s matchup with Oregon.

In terms of the standings, it doesn’t make the game any bigger. GameDay or not, a win over the Ducks would count for just one victory in the standings. It would get Arizona closer to the Pac-12 title that is well within its reach, but as far as this season is concerned that’s about all it would do.

But big picture, it—along with Thursday’s tilt with Oregon State—represents something larger for the program.

Should Arizona sweep the weekend, a feat that it is expected to accomplish, it would show the team truly has gotten through its rough patch, and is indeed ready to go on a run.

Why, you may ask?

Let me explain.

Oregon State is the worst team in the Pac-12, and it would be understandable if the Wildcats looked past them. Arizona has proven it does not need to be at its best to beat most of its opponents, and how could you not feel like all it takes is showing up to knock off a 3-20 team whom you are favored to beat by more points than they have losses.

“They better not,” coach Tommy Lloyd said Wednesday. “As a competitor, you only get so many nights you get to go compete against another team. I tell our guys, would you rather practice or would you rather play a game? Obviously we know what the answer is, so handle it accordingly. I’m not worried about that. Oregon State will get our full attention just like anybody else.”

It’s easier said than done, but should Arizona come out focused and dominant they will have little trouble with the Beavers.

That would show a maturity that has been a bit hard to come by, and it would bode well for the game two days later.

Yes, Oregon would be a bigger game even if GameDay wasn’t swinging by. The Ducks are still within range of a conference title, and a win over Arizona in Tucson would go a long way toward helping their cause.

More than that, though, the Ducks are always formidable and have won the last seven matchups between the teams. Arizona was able to slay one demon a couple weeks back with a win over UCLA, and it would be nice to see them finish off another here.

Arizona is the most talented team in the conference, but talent only gets you so far. Being able to take care of business against a lesser opponent and then turn around to face a tougher one with the eyes of college basketball upon you, well, that would provide evidence that the team has grown in ways that are not only exciting, but necessary.

The Wildcats have proven plenty over the season’s first 24 games. They have athleticism and size. They feature depth and swagger. Their shooting isn’t bad, either, and they are a well-coached squad that cleans up on the glass.

But do they have the mental fortitude to win when they should and when the bright lights are shining?

Beat the Beavers, comfortably, and Arizona will have proven it has the necessary mentality to win bigger games down the road.

Follow that win with one over the Ducks, and they will have announced to the entire country they are for real and to be reckoned with.