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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Early loss won’t kill Arizona, Wildcats will learn

Slut+Walk+began+at+the+Womens+Plaza+of+Honor+on+campus+and+ended+at+The+Hopyard+on+4th+Avenue+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+14%2C+2015.+
Rebecca Noble
Slut Walk began at the Women’s Plaza of Honor on campus and ended at The Hopyard on 4th Avenue on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.

Sean Miller and the Arizona men’s basketball team dropped an early season game against Providence on Friday night. A loss this early has been unheard of for a coach who has not lost a game in November since a defeat at the hands of Mississippi State in 2011. 

With this early season loss, it is easy for fans to get worked up and worried about this year’s No. 11 ranked Arizona team. After watching the Wildcats almost lose to a winless Santa Clara and falling to the Friars the next night, it is obvious that Miller and company have some work to do.

The idea of pressing the panic button this early in the season, however, should not be considered. In fact, this loss may be good for the Wildcats in the long run.

The early season story with this team was the amount of new faces—eight in total including walk-on Paulo Cruz—that have been taking the court each night for Miller. 

In his first season with Arizona, Ryan Anderson has been the best player on the court each night. Freshman Allonzo Trier has displayed a strong ability to get to the rim and score while guard Kadeem Allen has been one of the better defenders on the team. Mark Tollefsen has shown some solid play, but also struggled during the DirecTV Wooden Legacy.

This early loss gives the Wildcats a chance to go back to the drawing board. College basketball, like the NBA, is a marathon. One loss doesn’t doom a team like it does in college football. There is time. 

Providence will be ranked after this weekend. In fact, they should have been ranked heading in. They boast one of the best players in the country in Kris Dunn, who went 7-for-9 with 19 points and eight assists against the Wildcats. 

Losing to Providence is not a bad loss by any means, especially when you consider the Wildcats were without center Kaleb Tarczewski.

They battled against the Friars much better than they did in the performance against Santa Clara and had the look of a team that was sharp, but just came up short. 

“I leave this game feeling very, very good about our team’s effort and where we can grow and become,” Miller said.

Arizona is also not the only ranked team with an early loss. Northern Iowa upset former No. 1 North Carolina. Duke, Kansas and Virginia have all suffered early season losses as well.

Ask yourself: What would you rather have? An early regular season loss or an early loss in March? This loss should remind the Wildcats of the work that must be done if they want to make another deep tournament run.

Arizona has definitely showcased that it has a talented roster, but it is easy to see that there is a lot of work left. Arizona was challenged both times it played Boise State, and Miller himself acknowledged that this team has a lot of room to improve on defense.

The Wildcats did just that Sunday in a 68-59 win over Boise State, where Arizona held the Broncos to under 40 percent shooting while forcing 15 turnovers.

“This was our best defensive performance of the year,” Miller said after the third place finish. “I think any time you can hold [opponents] to under 60 points, … it says a lot about the commitment to that side of the ball.” 

This team of Wildcats has a very small sample size of games they have played together. It has a lot of growing to do as the Wildcats head into conference play in early January. An early loss serves as a reminder that the team has a lot of improvements to make. 

In the long run, it will serve as a positive wake-up call for the team as it prepares for a tough Pac-12 Conference schedule and, eventually, the NCAA Tournament.


Follow Kyle Hansen on Twitter.


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