PGU Staff Writer AW Butler
First place at the half-way point of the nonconference season, flirting with the polls, McKale rocking. Sounds familiar, right?
It sounds familiar because last year Arizona sat in this exact same spot. It sounds very familiar because just three months ago the football team went to Stanford with a 7-1 record and all the momentum in the world.
In both scenarios we know what happened next. I won’t rehash.
I will, however, address why the 2010-11 Arizona Basketball team sitting atop the Pac-10 standings will not pull a “last year” or a “football.” It starts with maturity.
Sean Miller has a young team that is showing a maturity beyond their average of 1.1 full seasons of college hoop. I say this because they’ve won big, they’ve won tight, they’ve won ugly, they’ve won smoothly. They have won eighteen times and you can’t take anything away from that.
This team has lost just four times and in three of those loses they faced decidedly better teams (currently the 2nd, 8th, and 20th ranked teams in the nation). The one hiccup, Oregon State, will not be excused, but Arizona shot 54% from the free throw line and committed 19 turnovers; no one’s recipe for victory.
A major reason for that hiccup and the inconsistent play of this team has stemmed from the inconsistency of the point guard position. Momo Jones is a skilled basketball player playing out of position, but he is learning. Jordin Mayes is an impressive freshman – a definite tribute to Miller and his staff’s scouting ability – who plays with a confidence beyond his years but is still just a freshman.
The combination of position learning and youth is the standard formula for inconsistency.
But we come back to maturity. Jones and Mayes are willing to learn Miller’s system and that says more about them than shooting percentages or assist-to-turnover ratios. Their steady play this past weekend – combining for 25 points per – was the reason Arizona won handily in both games and looked good doing it.
The further maturation of the point guard tandem will make the Wildcats an increasingly more difficult team to beat. And we will quickly test this maturity theory as Arizona starts the second half with a three-game road trip to the Bay and Tempe. They’ll close the season playing five of nine as the visitor; which I think is a good thing.
On the road, playing with a little discomfort and getting away from the friendly confines of McKale will make this a better team; more dynamic, communicative, and tougher. All staples of a team that can be successful on CBS.
Another reason Arizona won’t collapse in the second half is that every time they take the floor, the best basketball player in the arena is wearing an Arizona jersey. How sweet it is to have Derrick Williams.
So, while the Wildcats current position may walk and talk like a duck, it’s not a duck. It may be the same position, but the Wildcats are in a different place.