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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Was Arizona’s win over Houston the turning point for the season?

    PRO: Emotional incident fuels ‘Cats desire

    by Lance Madden, assistant sports editor

    After the Arizona men’s basketball team lost its third straight contest to ASU last Wednesday – the first time that’s happened in more than a decade – UA forward Jordan Hill looked more depressed than Hugh Hefner would if his symbolic robe was burned in a fire.

    “”We’re by ourselves,”” Hill said. “”We’re doing this for ourselves now.””

    Well, after the Wildcats’ tremendous overtime comeback win against Houston on Saturday, it really isn’t a bad thing that they’re playing for themselves.

    Sure, they have the whole nation to prove themselves to, but the dozen young men on the team are the ones who want the Wildcats to succeed the most. With the second half of the Pacific 10 Conference season kicking off later this week, the Wildcats may have finally persuaded the ones who needed the most reassurance that the season wasn’t yet dead.

    The ones with “”Arizona”” across their chest finally know.

    From the moment Chase Budinger was stepped on by Aubrey Coleman -ÿintentional or not -ÿall the ingredients needed for the recipe of a great team were blended together for the Wildcats: teamwork, brotherhood, heart, last-moment will and any other term you might grasp from a “”Togetherness”” inspirational poster hanging in a fourth-grade math classroom.

    But it isn’t cliché. Oh, no. It’s a wake-up call. It’s California, Stanford, UCLA, USC and ASU knocking on the door, telling Arizona they’re all salivating for another conference win against the No. 9 team in the Pac-10.

    It’s a wake-up call from Lute Olson, whose 24-year NCAA Tournament streak suddenly teeters on the line of history.

    The Wildcats got a taste of victory when they beat then-No. 4

    Gonzaga and defending national champion Kansas, and the intensity also built up in Arizona’s extremely close losses this season – there are three losses by a point each.

    The win over Houston marks a resurgence from Arizona. Finally, the Wildcats were tired of being pushed around and literally walked on.

    It’s time they played for themselves, and realize that it’s not a bad thing.

    CON: Remaining schedule likely too tough for UA

    By Bryan Roy, assistant sports editor

    Undoubtedly, Arizona avoided a season-defining loss after coming back against Houston on Saturday. If the Wildcats hadn’t erased a 10-point deficit with 52 seconds remaining in regulation, they would be 11-9 overall and all but guaranteed an exclusion from the NCAA Tournament.

    Barring an improbable run through the Pacific 10 Tournament, a loss would’ve ended Arizona’s 24-straight NCAA Tournament appearances – the nation’s longest active streak.

    But just because the win avoided those repercussions, it still doesn’t guarantee anything.

    The Wildcats are still 2-5 in the Pac-10, and must finish 8-3 to reach the 20-win plateau heading into the Pac-10 Tournament.

    Assuming the Pac-10 Tournament plays out as predictable as last year, that would give the Wildcats 21 or – best case – 22 wins, which would put them on the bubble.

    But 8-3 is no easy feat by any means. On tap for the Wildcats:

    • Host conference-leading Washington this weekend

  • Travel to an always difficult Mac Court against Oregon
  • Host a UCLA team that man-handled the Wildcats a few weeks ago – the Bruins won by 23 points
  • Travel to Tempe. Enough said.
  • Travel to conference-leading Washington, a team UA interim head coach Russ Pennell called one of the hottest teams in the nation, on Monday.
  • Oh, then those pesky Bay Area schools that thumped the Wildcats on their first Pac-10 road trip.
  • Keyword: Travel. The Wildcats know they’re 0-6 in true road games this season. Not that any team would make a checklist like this, but it certainly outlines the dynamic set of upcoming hurdles and the length of the remaining season. It’s extremely early to even begin thinking about Bracketology and how the field of 65 will shake out. However, as is the case for the Wildcats’ roster this season, there’s little margin for error to wiggle with down the stretch.

    Hey, if the Cardinals can make the Super Bowl, who can really rule out anything these days?

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