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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: UA fans, R-E-L-A-X

Arizona+head+coach+Sean+Miller+watches+contemptuously+during+the+game+in+Haas+Pavilion+in+Berkeley%2C+California+on+Saturday%2C+Jan.+23.+The+Wildcats+have+been+plagued+over+the+years+by+down+to+the+wire+games.+
Sydney Richardson
Arizona head coach Sean Miller watches contemptuously during the game in Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, California on Saturday, Jan. 23. The Wildcats have been plagued over the years by down to the wire games.

Coming into this season, it was tough to imagine the Arizona men’s basketball team would have suffered four losses already. Over the past three seasons, Arizona had only lost four games total by this point in each of those years combined.

This year has seen an older Arizona roster struggle through growing pains that seemed nonexistent in the past. The story has been the same throughout the season: Arizona has four seniors and one junior in the current starting lineup, yet three of them had not suited up for the Wildcats until this season.

Because of the inexperience with each other and with head coach Sean Miller, the Wildcats have had their struggles, especially on defense.

They have had to play keep-up much more than they’d like and have consistently played as a second-half team rather than a full, solid 40-minute team.

Even though these growing pains might have people worried, they should take some old but beneficial advice from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers:

“R-E-L-A-X.”

Arizona’s four losses have come by a combined 10 points. This includes a four-point loss to now No. 16 Providence, who boasts National Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn. They also lost on a 3-point buzzer beater to UCLA, two free throws in a four-overtime thriller at USC—who is also ranked now at No. 21—and Saturday’s one-point loss to California.

Each of these losses have been on the road or at a neutral site, yet all have been close and against formidable opponents.

Cal has been underperforming all season. In the preseason, it was ranked No. 14 and didn’t stay there long. The Golden Bears are similar to UCLA, where they play to the level of their competition.

Unfortunately for Arizona, Cal was at its best when the Wildcats were struggling.

As for UCLA, the Bruins are the perfect bipolar example. They’ll beat someone like Arizona or Kentucky, but lose to Washington State.

It doesn’t make sense, but college basketball around the nation has been weird this year.

Upsets have come in ridiculous amounts this season.

Over the last two weeks, over 20 ranked teams have lost. There seems to be a new No. 1 each week.

Oklahoma was given the No. 1 honors a week ago, only to be upset by No. 19 Iowa State only a few hours later. Michigan State upset Maryland on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak. Duke is sitting at No. 20 and Kentucky at No. 23. Southern Methodist University, the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball, can’t even play in the tournament because of NCAA sanctions.

In short, it’s been a wild year for hoops and it won’t slow down anytime soon.

Despite the early losses, the Wildcats have some early positives they can hang their hats on. They have given conference leader Washington its only Pac-12 Conference loss, and have gone on the road to upset Gonzaga. We’ve seen flashes of what this team can do; it’s only a matter of putting it together on a more consistent basis.

Arizona still has plenty of time to figure things out. They will get to host UCLA, USC and Cal in McKale Center, where they will have a chance at redemption.

The early losses are scary on paper, but frankly, everyone is losing this year. This isn’t like last season when it was Kentucky versus the field.

Multiple teams have a chance in this year’s tournament. Arizona isn’t the only team with struggles and it has plenty of time to figure something out by the time March rolls around.

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