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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Will the loss to UAB be better for Arizona’s résumé in the long run?

    Pro: Take every win they can get
    By Bryan Roy

    It’s almost a blessing in disguise that the Arizona men’s basketball team lost 72-71 Tuesday night to Alabama-Birmingham.

    Sure, the gut-wrenching loss left a sour taste with players and fans immediately following the short-fallen comeback; no team wants to suffer such a defeat. But thanks to an ambitious nonconference schedule, the Wildcats need to pick up as many wins as possible at this point of the season – something that would be more difficult in New York.

    Arizona is travelling to Athens, Ga., for the consolation bracket of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tipoff tournament. Keyword being consolation: its competition comes off losses in regional brackets earlier this week.

    The Wildcats were the only regional host school not advancing to New York, making them a favorite of the three other teams participating in Athens. Their matchups include Mississippi Valley State (0-4) on Monday and Santa Clara (1-2) on Tuesday.

    Not that UA interim head coach Russ Pennell takes any team lightly, but those two games should give the Wildcats a better opportunity at two more wins under their belt – a far easier feat than match-ups in New York, which would’ve consisted of a game next Wednesday against No. 12 Oklahoma, followed by either No. 11 Purdue or Boston College.

    Take your pick: Big 12, Big Ten and Big East? Or Southwestern Athletic Conference and West Coast Conference?

    Despite next week’s cupcake opponents, strength of schedule and ratings percentage index won’t be a concern come March Madness, thanks to Arizona’s already-ambitious nonconference scheduling as December approaches.

    The Wildcats must still face Texas A&M and University of Nevada Las Vegas on the road, host No. 24 Kansas in McKale and travel to Phoenix for No. 9 Gonzaga.

    Say a team like ASU failed to reach New York – that’s a different story, due to its complete lack of strong nonconference opposition. But just as in years past, Arizona will certainly have the opportunities to prove itself against some of the nation’s top teams – not even mentioning No. 4 UCLA, No. 15 ASU and No. 19 USC during Pacific 10 Conference play.

    For now, use the Mike Stoops tactic and take as many wins as possible against NCAA basement teams. The different between a 19-win season and 20-win season may keep the nation’s longest-active tournament appearance streak alive.

    Con: No loss should be justified
    By Lance Madden

    A loss is a loss. Period.

    Sure, the Wildcats are now in a situation in the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tipoff in which they’ll face two weaker opponents and are at more of an advantage to win each game than they would have been in New York City, but you never want to justify a loss.

    If little Johnny gets held back a grade in school, you don’t sugarcoat it by saying, “”Well, at least it will be easier for him to take his classmates’ lunch money now.””

    The fact remains that Arizona must still beat Mississippi Valley State and Santa Clara, which could be easier said than done. Nothing is a given.

    In their first exhibition game, the Wildcats trailed to Division II Incarnate Word a few minutes into the second half. Yes, Incarnate Word. If the Cardinals didn’t come to Tucson for that basketball game, I would have thought an Incarnate Word was a spiritual word in human form.

    When and if Arizona becomes a bubble team at the end of the season, teetering on the edge of qualification for the NCAA Tournament, its ratings percentage index will become a large factor. The RPI is a formula which takes into account a team’s winning percentage, its opponents’ winning percentage, and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents. So obviously a win over a team that made it to the New York bracket of this tournament would fare better than a win over Mississippi State or Santa Clara.

    And think about what a win against Alabama-Birmingham would have done for the confidence of the Wildcat squad. To be down 14 points and make a miraculous comeback to earn a ticket to play in one of the most historic basketball venues in the nation would have done wonders for this team.

    Heading into the Big Apple undefeated would have fired up the Wildcats, possibly igniting an upset of some great teams. In turn, a national top-25 ranking may have been earned.

    Instead, the Wildcats will have to fight that much harder for the respect they feel they deserve.

    It’s still early, but this defeat just adds another dip in what should prove to be a roller coaster of a season.

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