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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Weak Pac-12 favors Arizona

The parallels between sports and life are endless.

The character-building trials and tribulations that take place on the court are often teaching moments that prepare players for their first layoff or pay cut in the world of 9-to-5s.

But the parallels stop at the definition of mediocrity. While average is OK in the game of life, it’s nearly unacceptable in competition.

A middle-aged father of three who lives comfortably with his wife and golden retriever on $50,000 a year is seen as enjoying the American Dream.

But an 11-5 squad that sits at fifth place in its conference is an afterthought on its way to a ho-hum season deemed a “rebuilding year.”

Unless that conference is the Pac-12, and that 11-5 team is Sean Miller’s Wildcats squad. Because while mediocrity isn’t usually rewarded in sports, Arizona could build on its young talent, sift through a bad conference and steal the Pac-12 Championship before all is said and done.

That’s not to say Arizona is a championship level basketball team right now. The Wildcats aren’t — not even close. They’re fresh off of an LA trip that should have been a sweep, but rather started with an underwhelming performance against an undermanned UCLA team.

Nick Johnson is finally hitting a freshman slump. Arizona’s lack of size up front is killing its progress.

But luckily for Arizona, this isn’t the Atlantic Coast Conference. This isn’t the Big East. This may not even be the Atlantic 10. The Wildcats’ small front line doesn’t have to hold down Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis.

Instead the Wildcats have to deal with Andrew Robinson, Aziz N’Diaye and Jason Washburn (who?).

Needless to say, the Pac-12 is bad — really bad — and Arizona has the chance to turn what could be seen as a transition year into another championship season.

“This is a world of parity in college basketball right now,” Miller said.

Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner will continue to progress with each in every game. Angelo Chol should only improve with more experience. Hill, Kyle Fogg and Perry will grow more comfortable with their expanded roles, and Miller will have a better grasp of his rotations.

Arizona’s defense, athleticism and shooting ability will eventually make it one of the conference’s most dangerous teams. Are the Buffs and Cardinal really the conference’s two best teams as the standings indicate? Absolutely not.

Washington is nowhere near where analysts thought it would be, and the Wear twins’ performance against Arizona was an aberration.

Cal is by far Pac-12’s top team, but outside of that it’s a crapshoot — one that favors an average Arizona team.

Mediocrity isn’t well received in sports. Even LSU, which almost ran the table with a near unbearably difficult schedule, will be forgotten for its hiccup against Alabama in Monday’s national championship game.

But in the Pac-12, Arizona can live off of that $50,000 a year with a modest house and affordable mid-sized SUV. If Colorado, Stanford and UCLA are the only roadblocks, Miller could very well bring home his second consecutive conference championship.

For Arizona this season, mediocrity might not be all that bad.

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

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