By AW Butler
I know you’re looking at it.
It’s sitting there and it’s tempting. It’s big and it’s red and you’re imagining the worst. Everything you’ve endured for the past five years is telling you to smack it, jump on it, stand atop it and scream. You want to and it would almost be appropriate if you did.
Do not hit the panic button.
Arizona was swept this weekend on a tough LA road trip. They looked young, timid, lost, and confused; nothing like the tenth best team in America which they are indeed not. The Wildcats were exposed for their undersized interior and streaky guard play. That happens when you have undersized post players and young guards. It happens when you play against the best post players (Nikola Vucevic, Josh Smith, Reeves Nelson) in the conference. When you’re the best team in your league, you get everyone’s best game.
Losing is never a fun pill to swallow but this most intriguing of Arizona teams has done so little of it, this weekend delivered a less tasty, albeit necessary, meal of humble pie.
The pie went down hard and lessons will be learned. After Thursday’s loss to USC, Derrick Williams said, “I think it was good for us to lose.” The struggling forward was recognizing that he and his teammates had gotten ahead of themselves. That perhaps they thought being ranked and all over ESPN was an entitlement.
Going through the motions is not good enough. The Wildcats are talented but not talented enough to roll the ball out and walk out with a win. In twenty-three victories, how many of those have been comfortable wins? In six losses, how many of those have been dismantlings of this youthful squad?
But the important part is how Arizona gets better from this season’s first losing streak. Coach Miller has an opportunity to re-toughen up a team that was out-toughed in Los Angeles. It was an opportunity to remind his team exactly which end of the floor games are won on.
Coming out of a weekend in which the Wildcats were not up to the challenge of being the league favorites, they still control their own destiny. Their next challenge: secure their first conference title since 2005. Are they up for it? A season closing home stand against an improved Oregon team and the ever-dangerous OSU Beavers will be telling as to the maturity of Sean Miller’s group.
I know that the button wants to be pushed and it would be easy to do.
Don’t do it because this team is tougher than you think. They fight like no team in an Arizona uniform has in a long time and they want to learn. And what better way to learn than from your mistakes?
Mull on this final thought: sweep the seventh and ninth place teams in the conference (a combined 24-31) and Arizona is the likely 2010-11 Pacific-10 Conference Champions.
How does that sound?