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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Loss isn’t cause for concern

Will+Ferguson+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+UA+mens+basketball+team+lost+to+Seattle+Pacific+on++October+27%2C+2011.+The+Pictures+were+taken+on+the+UA+campus.+
Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men’s basketball team lost to Seattle Pacific on October 27, 2011. The Pictures were taken on the UA campus.

If anyone needed a sign that they had unrealistic expectations for the Arizona basketball team and its four freshmen, they got it on Thursday night.

The Wildcats looked out of whack on offense, defense and everything in between. They turned the ball over nine times and shot just 39 percent in the first half. Arizona got out-rebounded, 29-20, by a Seattle Pacific team that had nowhere near the athleticism or talent as the Wildcats.

Arizona’s centers, Kyryl Natyazhko and Sidiki Johnson, combined for two rebounds and the Wildcats missed nearly every clutch free throw — if there is such a thing in an exhibition — down the stretch of Thursday’s loss.

But for a team that lost its clear-cut go-to player when Derrick Williams left for the NBA, we should have seen it coming.
“You could feel that we’re not a very good basketball team right now,” head coach Sean Miller said.

They’re not. Arizona is going to have four freshmen play significant roles on this year’s team. It’s missing what might be its second-best player in Kevin Parrom.

Maybe the two most important positions on the floor, point guard and center, are going to be manned by freshmen for significant chunks of time.

Evolving to the point of a good team is going to be a season-long process for this year’s Arizona basketball team, but it entered the season with expectations from the fan base that a deep NCAA Tournament run would follow the one it went on last year.

“It’s gonna happen,” UA forward Solomon Hill said of the preseason expectations. “It’s nothing new. I don’t think anyone on the team’s mind is on future marks. It’s on the next game and going into practice. Just let the games come as they do.”

So while Thursday’s loss is going to stick out in the minds of Wildcat fans as a bad one, it wasn’t. Seattle Pacific is an experienced team while Arizona isn’t.

Arizona got better as the game progressed. Nick Johnson showed potential to be the go-to scorer that the Wildcats desperately need. And even though he was almost nonexistent on defense and rebounding, Natyazhko got to the rim and finished on two dunks.

It’s October. It’s all about getting better, even if it is in baby steps.

If there was something to be upset about after the game, Miller would have pinpointed it. But here’s the reality of it: It’s an exhibition against a veteran team. All in all, Arizona is going to gain much more from a loss than a blowout win.

“I wish I could say I would throw a bunch of things in the locker room and that our guys didn’t try,” Miller said. “We’re just not very good right now. We’re not.”

And that’s a realization that Arizona fans are going to need to come to at some point this season. The exhilaration from last March’s run through the NCAA Tournament is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and rightfully so. But to expect the same type of cohesiveness and production at this point in the season is silly.

Nobody likes losing, but there’s a point in time that it’s acceptable — and a preseason game against a quality team is one of those times, especially in the team’s first action against another school.

Now it’s time for Arizona fans to accept this team for what it is: A young group that’s going to get better — much better — between now and the end of the season, even if there are some growing pains.

— Alex Williams is the assistant sports editor. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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