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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA’s ceiling apparent in whiteout loss

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat boy; basketball; kevin parrom; 3

Nearly one year ago, on a Saturday night in McKale Center, Arizona’s version of the whiteout was born.

Derrick Williams kick-started Arizona’s eventual Elite Eight run with the block heard around the world, and everyone from UA students to ESPN’s GameDay circled part deux of the whiteout on their calendars.

The foundation for a long-lasting rivalry between Arizona and Washington was set and the city of Tucson was buzzing in anticipation for round 2.

Students gave up their coveted Friday night plans to line up outside of McKale Center until the doors opened at 6 a.m. Some students even transitioned from Smirnoff to 5-hour Energy, staying up all night to watch the ESPN GameDay crew go to work.

When game time came around, the ZonaZoo brought a level of electricity rarely felt in McKale Center before. Within the sea of white were super-fans in banana costumes, blue monkey suits and superhero masks. Even students dressed in Cookie Monster, Gumby and the Three Blind Mice outfits decided to join the party.

McKale was as lively as it has been in recent memory and the Wildcats had everything in place to ride that energy to a must-win victory against the Huskies.

But regardless of the constant buzz and hoopla surrounding the game, Arizona couldn’t hide its deficiencies on Saturday. With the nation watching, the Wildcats’ weaknesses were on display.

A raucous McKale Center wasn’t going to change the Wildcats’ inability to win close games, as it moved to 0-4 in games decided by four points or less.

The presence of Bob Knight, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis couldn’t give UA’s vertically challenged front line a few more inches. Nick Johnson’s love confession for Miley Cyrus before the game didn’t pull him out of his freshman slump.

The whiteout couldn’t mask Arizona’s youth, evident by the Wildcats’ newest version of the block, starring Josiah Turner and his inability to recognize time and score when trying to draw a charge 85 feet from the hoop with five ticks remaining.

Behind all the glitz and glamour that is ESPN GameDay and Arizona’s Whiteout lays a team that’s simply mired in mediocrity. A team that, regardless of Solomon Hill’s career night and spirited effort, lacks star power. A team that, aside from the hype and star rankings, starts two freshman guards in its backcourt. A team that has a 6-foot-7 small forward starting at center. A team that’s relying on a defender and spot-up shooter as one of its main offensive options.

A team that lives and dies by the 3-pointer because there’s simply no other option.

Arizona played exactly how it had all season long against the Huskies, leaving UA and its faithful fans deflated.

Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill sat in the post-game press conference with their heads down in dejection. Fogg answered one question with “I don’t know, man.”

UA head coach Sean Miller talked as if he was out of answers, knowing how low his team’s ceiling has become and understanding it lost to a far superior Huskies squad.

Arizona simply isn’t very good this season. Unless the Wildcats win the Pac-12 Tournament, they’re going to miss the NCAA Tournament.

Without Kevin Parrom for the rest of the season, they’re less physical and versatile. As Miller said, their margin for error is “razor thin.”

A lot has changed in the last year. Williams is now blocking shots for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. Washington freshman sensation Tony Wroten is now the one swatting game-saving shots in McKale Center.

And most importantly, the Wildcats aren’t destined for a deep tourney run this time around. Bilas said Miller is actually “ahead of schedule” in the post-Lute Olson rebuilding process, which is accurate. But in that rebuilding process comes transition years.

Chalk the 2011-12 season up to exactly that, as the Wildcats are a team with limited personnel that’s most likely destined for the NIT — something not even the whiteout could change.

— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatHoops.

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