For Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball, this is a special year

For Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball, this is a special year

With less than a month until March Madness begins, the Arizona Wildcats find themselves at the top of the Pac-12 and the No. 3 ranked team in the country. This isn’t a spot they’re unfamiliar with, but they haven’t appeared in the tournament since 2018 and haven’t made it past the Round of 32 since 2017.

They currently stand with a conference record of 12-1 and an overall record of 22-2, with their only losses coming against No. 16 ranked Tennessee, and conference rival,  No. 13 ranked UCLA. On top of that, they’re 13-0 at home and the vast majority of their margins of victory have been by double digits. 

Inside the Numbers

The Wildcats’ offense is led by sophomore guard Benedict Mathurin, who leads the team in points-per-game with 17 which is also 3rd most in the Pac-12. Mathurin also has the 2nd most total points in the Pac-12 this season with 409. 

For Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball, this is a special year
Benedict Mathurin has been Arizona’s leader all season.

In defense and transition, it’s junior center Christian Koloko leading the team in both rebounds-per-game and blocks-per-game, with 7.3 and 3.1, respectively. He’s the Pac-12 leader in blocks-per-game. 

They’re also a pass-heavy team who do not back down in the paint. They run a formidable 2-3 zone which has been a thorn in the side of opposing offenses. 

The Wildcats are currently on a six-game win streak, all of which have come against Pac-12 opponents, including a 10 point revenge win over UCLA, who has served them one of just two losses on the season and a victory over No. 17 ranked USC who are the 2nd best team in the Pac-12.

Their in-conference dominance has been evident this season, but the Wildcats have also had good success out of conference. They’ve gone 10-1 outside of the Pac-12 and have beaten ranked opponents in No. 12 Illinois in a thriller on the road as well as trouncing No. 22 Wyoming by 29 at home. 

Looking Ahead to March

March Madness is fast approaching and the Wildcats have shown that they want the spotlight this season. The No. 3 ranked team in the country is a force to be reckoned with, but it’s very important that they finish strong. They have seven games remaining in the regular season, one of which is against a ranked opponent in No. 17 USC who they beat earlier this month. 

This is a program that’s used to being a part of March Madness, making it eight times since 2009. However, they aren’t just here to make it to March, they’re determined to go to the big dance and win their second-ever NCAA Championship, the only one coming in 1997

It’s paramount to the Wildcats’ success that they win the Pac-12. Obviously anything can happen in March, but the higher ranked they go into the Madness, the better their chances of moving on. They have the most Pac-12 championships of any team in the conference with seven, and are looking to win their eight this year, and first since winning back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

There’s no reason to think that this team doesn’t have the talent to go to the Final Four this year, but that’s something they haven’t done in over two decades; since 2001. They trail just No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Auburn in the Associated Press rankings, and with Auburn taking on No. 16 Tennessee on the road later this month, an undefeated finish for Arizona in their remaining seven games could have the Wildcats in an even better spot come March.

 


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