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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Coaches and media not giving UA enough credit

    Last year, the Wildcats narrowly missed out on an NCAA tournament berth with 21 wins. It would have been Arizona’s first postseason experience since 2005 when it lost to LSU in the second round.

    The Wildcats might have the talent to get over that hump this year, but you wouldn’t know it looking at any of the Pac-12 preseason polls.

    In the Pac-12 coaches poll, Arizona was picked to finish ninth in the conference, and this comes after a season in which it finished in fifth in the Pac-12 with a 10-8 conference record. The Pac-12 media poll was a little more generous, predicting an eighth place finish.

    I get it; Ify Ibekwe and Soana Lucet’s combined 29 points and 15 rebounds per game are gone. The team has six new players on this year’s roster, and it is relying on an untested freshman Aley Rohde to man the low post.

    Even with the talent this team has in place, along with the amiable coaching presence of Niya Butts, the Wildcats are not getting the credit they deserve. Will they make the NCAA tournament? Maybe they will but probably not.

    But Arizona will also not finish eighth or ninth in the conference — they will finish fifth or sixth.

    Count sophomore Candice Warthen among those who weren’t very happy about the team’s ranking.

    “I didn’t really take it too well, personally, because we had a really good season last year and for us to do so good and them place us ninth is just motivation to the team,” Warthen said.

    The team has a chip on its shoulder, which can be a dangerous thing for its opponent, but that’s not the only reason this team will exceed the low expectations placed on it.

    Internally, the Wildcats have the personnel to make a run.
    Davellyn Whyte is one of the best offensive threats in the nation, and she has a been among the leading scorers in the Pac-12 since her freshman year.

    Shanita Arnold was second in the Pac-10 in assists last year, with 4.88 per game, and she has the passing ability and court vision to maybe even lead the Pac-12 this time.

    Rohde stands at an imposing 6-foot-5, and if her performance in high school is any indication, she will make an immediate impact.
    Candice Warthen exploded for 36 points in Arizona’s second regular season game, and Erica Barnes has proven that she can be a definite rebounding threat.

    Externally, the mass coaching exodus going around the Pac-12 leaves a level of uncertainty with a few teams competing with Arizona. Cal, UCLA, ASU and Washington all have new coaches, and a sudden change in coaching philosophy is often too much for a student-athlete to handle, at least initially.

    Arizona has no chance against Stanford, a perennial national championship contender, and probably won’t put up much of a fight against USC or California. But this team has the players in place to give the other eight teams in the Pac-12 a run for their money.

    Pac-12 coaches might not believe it, the media might not believe it, but come March, don’t be shocked if the Arizona Wildcats appear on your bracket for the NCAA tournament.

    — Zack Rosenblatt is a junior studying journalism and Italian. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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