With the start of Pac-12 play just a few days away, Arizona will begin their quest for a third consecutive regular season title. Here are some keys to winning another championship:
Arizona has been hit with numerous injuries so far this season. Coach Miller said this year’s team has dealt with more injuries than all his previous teams combined, and the season isn’t even half way through. Hopefully Kaleb Tarczewski will be back in the lineup soon, and Arizona can get a healthy roster of players on the court at the same time in practice and games.
Stay Undefeated At Home
Arizona is riding the nation’s best 47 game home winning streak and must continue to win at home. The Pac-12 as a whole is the strongest it has been in some time, ranked number 2 in overall RPI, and holding court is imperative to winning another title.
Go 5-4 On The Road
By winning all their league games at home and going one game over .500 on the road, that would leave Arizona with a 14-4 record in league play. That should be good enough to win the league outright. It will be important for Arizona to start off conference play strong with their first three games being on the road against ASU, UCLA and USC. Even though Coach Miller said it doesn’t matter when the road games are played because each team must play nine, there is a difference in being 3-0 and 1-2, being on top of the standings or chasing from behind. With a good start on the road, the rest of the Pac-12 will take notice that Arizona is the team to beat.
Turnovers are a good barometer for how Arizona is playing. In the first two games of the DirecTV Wooden Legacy tournament, Arizona struggled and committed 17 and 21 turnovers against Santa Clara and Providence. Those games were the worst Arizona has played this season and the turnovers were a direct correlation to their performance.
Improve On Defense
Although Arizona has been playing better defense of late, they still have room for improvement. With so many new players on this year’s team, getting comfortable in Miller’s pack line defense and knowing where to be takes time. Once all five players on the court are in the correct spot positionally and on a string, the team will be very tough to score on, especially with Tarczewski back. The Wildcats are a superb rebounding team, which is the last part of defense, and must continue to limit their opponents from getting offensive rebounds. By controlling their fouls and forcing the opposition to take tough two point shots, the team defense will go to the next level.
Peak At The Right Time
League play is a grind, 18 games over 10 weeks. There will be ebbs and flows, highs and lows, but the key is to stay the course and continue to improve. Dusan Ristic has gotten invaluable playing time with Kaleb Tarczewski out, and when Tarczewski does come back, Arizona will be a much better team. The most important key is to be healthy and playing their best basketball at the end of the season. If Arizona can stay healthy they will have a full complement of players which should result in better continuity and play. Every year there are three goals for Arizona basketball; win the regular season Pac-12 championship, win the Pac-12 tournament and make the Final Four. The first goal starts on Sunday.