The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

89° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats slumping like it’s 1984

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill, right, buries his face in his shirt as Washington guard Justin Dentmon (5) and forward Jon Brockman celebrate a call in their favor in the second half of the Huskies 75-66 win Thursday in Seattle.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill, right, buries his face in his shirt as Washington guard Justin Dentmon (5) and forward Jon Brockman celebrate a call in their favor in the second half of the Huskies’ 75-66 win Thursday in Seattle.

    In two years of covering Arizona basketball I have gotten very good at knowing exactly where to look when it comes to a bad streak the program is currently struggling through.

    After Thursday’s 75-66 loss at Washington, the Wildcats dropped to 6-7 in Pacific 10 Conference play, which made me wonder when was the last time Arizona owned a record below .500 in league play this late in the season.

    I probably did not need to check the media guide to know the answer, as like seemingly every other mark of futility, it occurred in 1983-84, Lute Olson’s first season in Arizona, the last time the program did not make the NCAA Tournament, and the last year the Wildcats were really bad.

    Arizona has not lost more than seven Pac-10 games in a season since the 1983-84 team dropped 10, but with seven losses after the squad’s run of four defeats in five games and with four of the remaining five being tough contests, that appears to be a virtual certainty.

    What does not appear to be a virtual certainty is Arizona making the NCAA Tournament for the 24th consecutive season.

    Saturday’s game at No. 17 Washington State and the March 2 game against No. 6 UCLA are games the Wildcats would be hard pressed to win, and they’d be lucky to split the Feb. 28 game against USC and the March 8 contest at Oregon. Only the March 6 game at Oregon State appears to be a gimme after the Bruins just beat the Beavers by 35.

    UA guard Jawann McClellan said he’s “”not really worried about us making the Tournament or not”” before the Washington trip, guessing that 18 wins would get the Wildcats in.

    If that scenario plays its way out, Arizona would be at 18-14 and 8-10 in the league with a first-round loss in the Pac-10 Tournament or 18-15 and 7-11 with a win in the league tourney. The former case would mean ending the year going 3-8 while the latter case would mean 3-9.

    When considering that could mean an eighth- or ninth- and likely no higher than seventh-place finish in the league, McClellan’s math may be a bit off regardless of the fact that the 2001 Georgia squad got in with a 16-14 mark and the nation’s No. 1 strength of schedule that the Wildcats also possess.

    On the bright side Arizona’s still tied for fifth in the league with three other teams, but just a half game separates Nos. 5-9. So it’s pretty self-explanatory what a few more losses could mean for the Wildcats, who even finished tied for fifth back in ’83-84 and haven’t done worse since.

    However, a hot finish that seems unlikely could still put Arizona as high as third since USC is just a game up with a meeting in Tucson left to be played and Washington State’s just two up in the loss column but a win Saturday would make that one and give Arizona the tiebreaker.

    The team just does not have the firepower without injured guard Nic Wise and forward Bret Brielmaier. The UW loss dropped Arizona to 2-6 in games guard Jerryd Bayless or Wise miss, beating Oregon State and California at home; on the other hand the Wildcats are 14-4 when both players suit up.

    That’s likely why earlier in the week UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said if the Wildcats were to get in they would “”be able to do something”” in the NCAA Tournament.

    The UW game just came down to a lack of depth.

    Washington threw multiple defenders at Bayless, forcing him into three offensive fouls in the first half and seven turnovers in the game, with nine Huskies playing at least 13 minutes in all. Bayless missed 13 shots and never got into the kind of rhythm he found during his previous 30-point games.

    “”We don’t have enough guards,”” O’Neill told reporters in Seattle. “”They threw (nine) guys on us all night. It wore us down. Jerryd needs to be off the ball, but without Nic we can’t get him off the ball. I can’t blame our guys.””

    In all the Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times after O’Neill had lauded them earlier in the week for being a low-turnover squad, which could be said for their last five games when they averaged 9.6 turnovers per contest.

    As far as not having the horses, for 1:34 in the middle of the second half the Wildcats played a lineup of Bayless, McClellan, guard Daniel Dillon, forward Jamelle Horne and center Kirk Walters, during which time a seven-point UW lead ballooned to a game-high 13.

    That left Budinger (foul trouble), forward Jordan Hill (foul trouble), Wise and Brielmaier as would-be rotation players on the bench, which would make for a better lineup than the one on the floor when combined with forward Zane Johnson.

    Bayless could not win this one by himself, not with all the Huskies constantly flying at him, but at least UA fans can take solace that he did not seriously re-injure his right knee when it got hit and he went down for a few seconds, a blow that would have more than crippled the season.

    Although the Wildcats’ current lack of depth is alarming, if they fight through it and reach the NCAA Tournament anyways, at least this will be different team come tourney time.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search