The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


For all the marbles


After 28 games, a slew of injuries and a little drama for good measure, here we are, on the doorstep of the biggest weekend for Arizona basketball in quite some time. The regular season Pac-12 Championship hangs in the balance, ripe for the Wildcats plucking—sorry for the Bill Waltonism.

Assuming Arizona can take care of business against USC at home Thursday, the evil empire awaits on the other side in the form of the UCLA Bruins. A program steeped in tradition, a college basketball relic because of the John Wooden days and, most importantly, every bit as good as Arizona on paper.

Take away the environment and the fans, these two teams would still battle each other to no end. This is how it is supposed to be. Sure Oregon is good, but traditional power they are not. They don’t belong in the conversation yet; two years of quality play doesn’t place you at the big boy table; it takes years to build those legs and attain the standard of excellence by which UCLA and Arizona live.

There are those who will try and take away attention from this match up. Lavar Ball, father of UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, has done his damndest on the Pac-12 Network by claiming his son is better than Stephen Curry. What Ball failed to realize is that the Wildcat tradition extends well beyond just those who have donned the red and blue, it encompasses all that are within its glory. So as Steve Kerr coaches Steph Curry, he does so knowing that the ZonaZoo will unleash the fury on a kid barely old enough to drive, let alone be compared to a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.

The matchups Saturday are endless—Kadeem Allen vs. Ball, Bryce Alford vs. Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen vs. T.J. Leaf, Sean Miller vs. Steve Alford and on and on. Every position is a must-see battle.

Great games have many different levels to their greatness, but this one is set up before the game has even started. An Arizona win means the Wildcats would have just ASU left on the road in Tempe. Assuming Oregon doesn’t falter, the Wildcats would be in line to win the Pac-12 regular season championship in the house that Sparky built. Pretty sweet considering all the court storming in the recent past. 

The Wildcats would also avoid having to go through both UCLA and Oregon to win the Pac-12 Tournament, instead leaving it up to those two to battle it out. And if that wasn’t enough, there is a very real scenario that could place Arizona as the No. 1 seed in the west, despite Gonzaga being undefeated. If the Wildcats can beat UCLA this week and avenge a loss against Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament, they will be providing a much more fan-friendly route to Glendale for this year’s Final Four.

Related: Arizona earns signature victory in dominant performance for Wildcats

For every great scenario, there is an unpleasing series of events that could work against the UA as well. Should Arizona lose to UCLA on Saturday, they almost guarantee a second seed in the Pac-12 Tournament and would also lose out on the Pac-12 regular season championship by virtue of a head-to-head tie-breaker with Oregon.

The Wildcats, as of today, are one of the favorites to land the No. 1 seed in the South, according to Andy Katz of ESPN, but losing twice in the last two weeks, including the tournament, would prevent that. Arizona could go from No. 1 seed all the way down to a No. 3 or 4 seed if they should falter twice, especially to UCLA or Oregon.

Watercooler talk has already run rampant with scenarios of not only where Arizona could go but where UCLA and Oregon will end up, which could affect where the Wildcats are placed based on performance. And then there is a Gonzaga argument, which will be saved for another day.

So much on the line can almost cloud a person from seeing what really matters and that would be the home finale in McKale Center and Senior Day. Kadeem Allen will be playing his final game in an Arizona uniform at home; it reeks of drama, doesn’t it? Arizona’s lone senior in a home game against a top-10 team—something could be in the air. The story virtually writes itself, but the Wildcats realize there are no fairytales if they don’t show up to play against a Bruin team hungry for revenge after losing at Pauley Pavilion just a few weeks ago.

In addition to Senior Day, a.k.a. Kadeem Allen Day, the Wildcats will host ESPN’s College Gameday Saturday morning. The chaos of so much going on in a weekend will be something for both teams to manage, and making the game bigger than it needs to be can put a lot of pressure on teams, but Arizona head coach Sean Miller has a plan for it—to ignore it.

“There is really no preparation for that,” Miller said. “… If you talk about it, it’s a negative. There’s enough at stake when you play the game. Then when you start to play games within your own mind and you add things of an anxious nature it doesn’t help performance.”

Miller’s out of sight, out of mind mentality should suit the Wildcats perfectly. The weekend is almost here. Buckle up, it should be fun.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search