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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Is this the year Arizona breaks through and makes the Final Four?

A+UA+student+made+sign+during+the+ESPN+coverage+of+College+GameDay+on+Feb.+25.
Simon Asher

A UA student made sign during the ESPN coverage of College GameDay on Feb. 25.

For the fourth time in five seasons, Arizona basketball head coach Sean Miller has led the Wildcats to the Sweet Sixteen, and it has fans and pundits thinking: Will this be the year Arizona gets back to the Final Four? 

Arizona’s last two attempts were foiled by Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, but if the two teams met this season, the Wildcats would be in the Final Four.

The last time Arizona made the Final Four, Luke Walton was at Arizona instead of coaching the Los Angeles Lakers; Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson were playing under Lute Olson, and Miller was just an assistant at North Carolina State.

Arizona has lost its last three Elite Eight games by a combined 10 points, so the Wildcats have been right on the cusp of breaking through. 

Running into Kemba Walker and Frank Kaminsky is not an ideal scenario for any team, and Arizona still almost won each of the three games.

All three teams left in this year’s West Region, Xavier, Gonzaga and West Virginia, are tough matchups, but none have talents like that of Walker and Kaminsky.

Despite no Final Fours since 2001, Arizona fans routinely believe their Wildcats have what it takes to make it into the Final Four. The Wildcats are loaded with talent in both the frontcourt and backcourt, while also having plenty of versatility.

If Lauri Markkanen is struggling, Allonzo Trier steps up. When Markkanen and Trier are not having their shots fall, then Rawle Alkins can take over for Arizona. Down low, Dusan Ristic can always post up for a bucket when Arizona needs it. 

Despite Arizona’s lack of Final Four appearances over the past decade and a half, fans are right in expecting a Final Four this season. 

A team with as much talent as Arizona is not just satisfied to be in the tournament. With a roster loaded with talent and a favorable draw in the tourney, what are Wildcats fans supposed to root for? When a player like Markkanen is your second scoring option, the sky is the limit for your basketball team.

During a year in which no team dominated, Arizona might never have an easier path to the Final Four. The defending champion Villanova Wildcats have already lost, so that knocks out one contender Arizona might have played. Everyone’s (least) favorite team, the Duke Blue Devils, have also been knocked out, so Arizona would avoid them if they do in fact make the Final Four.

Despite not being in the upper-echelon of college basketball royalty, Arizona is just a tier below in the pecking order. 

While Duke and Kentucky are two of the first schools you think of in college basketball, Arizona is further down that list. And until Arizona breaks through into the Final Four and adds another championship banner, the Wildcats will stay in that second tier.

Every year, five to 10 college basketball fanbases have a championship or bust mentality, and the Arizona program is amongst those who believe year after year.

If it doesn’t happen this year, Arizona fans will be expecting to contend for a Final Four again next year with top high school recruit Deandre Ayton heading to Tucson.

If it does happen, fans will expect Miller and the ‘Cats to repeat their performance, and Arizona will be considered the best team out west for years to come.

For now, all of Tucson is on the edge of their seat, waiting, hoping to make the trip to Glendale in just 10 days.


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