Are the Cats 'back'?

It is too early to pronounce Arizona's problems on the hardwood fixed, but the last two games have seen the Wildcats play some of their best basketball. Now they can realistically eye the NCAA Tournament.

Realistically, the Wildcats are in the NCAA's with one more win. Their RPI and schedule strength make 18 wins seem like enough to get in and continue "The Streak". They should be able to beat Washington State on Thursday and then they start playing for seeding.

Although the past two games have really been good performances, it is too early to proclaim that the Cats are back. We can't really can't judge if the Cats are close to living up to Lute Olson's promises that this team would be better than last year's by March.

First of all, the Cats looked very good the past two games, and three of the last four, but they teams they have beaten are hardly murderer's row. Oregon State and ASU are bad basketball teams. Sure, the Devils have been playing better, but they are still a bottom three team in the conference in terms of talent.

Stanford is a better opponent, but they are a team that is probably on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA's. They have lost four of their last six with wins coming over ASU and Washington State and they only scored 39 in the win over the Cougars.

Arizona will not get to prove themselves until Washington rolls into Tucson on Saturday. Then Arizona will get a test against a ranked opponent, one that will be playing in the postseason.

The other concern is that it was less than two weeks ago when the Cats were destroyed by Cal. The Cats looked disinterested and inferior to the Bears. Even in the loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion the Cats made a run in the second half. Against the Bears the Cats looked flat and were never really in the game.

Even Saturday's blowout win had some concerns. The Cats held the Devils to just one field goal in the first 10 minutes, but barely had a 10-point lead. They did put ASU away early, but better Arizona teams would have won by 30 or more.

Things are indeed going well. Chris Rodgers and Daniel Dillon have formed a nice defensive tandem coming off the bench. For the most part Rodgers is saying and doing all the right things and has become an asset.

The biggest positive has been the play of Ivan Radenovic. The junior power forward has been one of the best players on the team the past few games. He has become a "stat filler", a guy who can score, board, pass and even get a few steals.

More importantly, he has taken on a leadership role with the team. Previously, he allowed Hassan Adams and Mustafa Shakur to be the default leaders, but now he has become more vocal as well as leading by example. He has been diving for loose balls, congratulating teammates and even chewing guys out.

He finally looks to be over the thumb injury that slowed him earlier in the year. He also seems to have benefited from Kirk Walters' expanded role.

The last two games have been impressive, but it is two early to deem the Cats ‘back'. However, they are starting to look more like an NCAA Tournament team and what we think an Arizona basketball team should be.


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