Some may argue that they overachieved, riding the shoulders of the most powerful player in this NCAA Tournament, but Arizona’s ride to the Elite Eight was no fluke.
They may have lost to UConn 65-63, but I’m not here to dwell on the past. One or two shots away from winning the West Region the tone has been set in Tucson. And if you ever thought it temporarily left well, I’m here to tell you that basketball is back in the desert.
Sure their best player, Derrick Williams, will likely enter the NBA Draft, leaving a gaping hole in their rotation, but the juniors and seniors to be in 2011-2012 developed a ton, both when we weren’t really watching during the course of the regular season and most certainly over the past week.
The victory against Duke was the biggest attention-grabbing victories of the tournament, highlighted by a monumental second half run that sent adolescent Blue Devil fans running to their mommy for fear out of what was transpiring on the television. Additionally noteworthy on their 2011 tournament run was a nail-biting victory against Texas, meaning ‘Zona beat two of the nation’s most statistically sound teams. Both wins spoke volumes to the capabilities of the program, and won’t soon be lost on the bevy of blue chip high school recruits being pursued by Sean Miller and his staff.
They came to play – not just peaked – when it mattered most.
Already on the horizon are two four-star recruits – guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner – that will solidify an already strong backcourt. Returning is the eccentric sophomore Lamont “Mo Mo” Jones, Kyle Fogg and Kevin Parrom; and bigs Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry. Those frontcourt flankers of Williams played well in bursts this tournament – and were most impressive tonight when their star was in foul trouble.
Besides the fact that they were oh-so-close to reaching the Final Four for the first time since 2011, these Cats have absloutely nothing to be ashamed of. They’re back. Sean Miller is an elite coach (I mean, he did come from Xavier after all), and all doubt about whether or not he could restore what Lute Olson built from dry desert sand has been power sprayed down into the sewer.
I’m thrilled they’ve returned to the college basketball fray, and you should be too.