The Arizona Wildcats are currently 23-6, and sitting at 12-4 in the Pac-10. The team is also tied for first in the conference with two games to play.
Not bad, considering these same Wildcats ended the 2009 season 16-15, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in over two decades, and were unranked in the top-25 for the first time in 25 years.
Although this past week did not deliver what many Wildcat fans hoped for, it is important to remember where the Wildcats were less than a year ago.
In the 2009-10 season, Arizona was swept by both Oregon State and Washington State, while also splitting series with Arizona State, Washington, California, Southern California, and UCLA.
As of today, the Wildcats have lost only one game to each of Oregon State, Washington, and UCLA, with all defeats being away from McKale Center. This is substantial improvement for a team that did not add elite talent to its roster, while also losing its starting veteran point guard, Nic Wise.
Coming into the 2010 season, Freshman Daniel Bejarano was looked at as the gem of the 2010 recruiting class, if one had to be selected. An ex-Texas commit, many thought Bejarano would set foot on campus fighting for a starting role at the shooting guard position.
That thought quickly vanished as it became clear early in the year that the guard needed much improvement before he would see the court in head coach Sean Miller's system. To date, Bejarano has played in only eight games, averaging just three minutes in each.
In comparison, freshman point guard, Jordin Mayes was not highly recruited out of high school, but he has averaged close to five points per game, shooting 43 percent from deep, and 42 percent from the field. This is all while seeing only 14 minutes of playing time per game.
Though he certainly has aspects of his game to improve – most importantly free throw shooting – Mayes has been a pleasant surprise for Arizona and should mold into a very good four-year player. With that said, he is still not the elite point guard that the Wildcats need to get to the top.
Junior college transfer, Jesse Perry was the Player of the Year in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference before coming to Arizona. He was expected to arrive and provide an extra body down low for the ‘dirty work'.
He has given the Wildcats exactly that this season, as Perry has 13 blocks to go with 125 rebounds. Further, Perry has brought qualities to this team that most would say don't fill the stat sheet. His hustle, effort, and determination are attributes that cannot be taught, and these have definitely benefited Arizona this season.
Yet, Perry is not a player that Arizona can solely lean on in tough games, when Derrick Williams is having an off night.
It is understandable that many are frustrated with the Wildcats' play, or lack thereof, this past week in Los Angeles. However, the state of Arizona basketball following the 2009 season must be taken into consideration.
The Wildcats have likely overachieved this season, given the pieces that are in place. When the most important member of a team graduates, combined with a lack of elite talent influx, expectations should be tempered.
The Wildcats have won 23 games, are comfortably in the NCAA tournament, and have a coaching staff that will make them nationally relevant sooner than later.
What more can you ask for?
Perspective needed after loss
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