Arizona’s weekend probably couldn’t have gone any better.
The Wildcats went 2-0, including an exciting, 107-105 win over Cal in triple overtime. Point guard Momo Jones was terrific, scoring 27 points and making big play after big play late in the game. The Wildcats also moved into sole possession of first place in the conference thanks to Washington’s struggles on their trip to play the Oregon schools.
To top it all off, on Monday morning Arizona awoke to a No. 15 ranking in the AP and a No. 16 ranking according to the coaches’ poll.
At first glance, that appears to be a fair ranking. Arizona is, in fact, 20-4 on the season and currently sitting all alone atop a major conference. But dig a little bit deeper, and things are not quite as pretty.
The Wildcats have not beaten a ranked team this season. In fact, they have only played three — Kansas, BYU, and Washington, who is no longer in the top 25. They have as many wins against the RPI top 50 — No. 40 UCLA — as they do losses to the bottom 200 — No. 226 Oregon State. The computers love the Wildcats, as they sit at 16th in the RPI and 18th in Kenpom’s rankings, which is essentially the same place that voters have slotted them.
So I ask you — are the Wildcats for real?
Derrick Williams certainly is. The 6’8″ combo-forward is one of the most efficient players in the country. He’s dangerous everywhere on the country, whether he is posting up, squaring up on the perimeter, or running the floor in transition. He has an uncanny ability to draw fouls and get to the line and his field goal percentages (63.3% from the floor, 69.4% from three, 69.8% eFG) are better than what many big men shoot from the foul line.
The issue with Arizona, however, isn’t with Williams.
Its with his supporting cast.
For a program that pumped out enough quality floor generals to earn the nickname “Point Guard U”, its shocking when you realize just how much the Wildcats lack in the back court. Jones has been playing much better of late — including Saturday’s 27 point performance, he is averaging 19.0 ppg and shooting 59.5% from the floor in his last four games. But he’s also averaging just 2.4 apg on the season, which is a less than ideal number from a starting point guard.
This recent stretch is also the first time in his career at Arizona that Jones has shown this kind of consistency. He has scored in double figures in the last six games. Prior to that stretch, he only had five double figure scoring games on the season.
Jones may not be an ideal point guard — he’s more of a scorer than a creator at this point in his career — but if he can consistently provide a secondary scoring option and another go-to guy for late-game situations, it will greatly help the Wildcats and take pressure off of Williams.
Perhaps the best attribute for this team is their depth. They have ten players that average double figure minutes, and after Williams there are eight players that average between 4.8 and 9.8 ppg. Kevin Parrom, who had 25 points in the win over Cal, and Solomon Hill are both versatile sophomore wing players while Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg provide leadership and experience.
Arizona may have a lot of youth on their roster and they may be lacking a true point guard. They may not have an impressive win this season, either. And while they are playing in a watered down Pac-10 that looks worse and worse with each Washington loss, the Wildcats at the very least are winning games against the teams they are supposed to beat.
Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats look like they are hitting their stride down the stretch.
How many teams this season can make that claim?