Arizona Wildcats (16-12)
- Head Coach: Sean Miller (10th Season)
- Top Performer: Brandon Randolph (13.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG)
- Points For: 72.1 PPG (T-195th)
- Points Against: 68.2 PPG (90th)
- Last Game/Streak: 70-54 Win v. Stanford (2W)
After a January 19th victory over Oregon State which brought the Wildcats to 14-5 and 5-1 in league play, the wheels completely fell off the wagon for Arizona.
Head coach Sean Miller’s squad ended up dropping seven straight games from January 24th to February 17th, in a span that ranks as one of the worst stretches in program history. They were throttled on the road at USC and UCLA by a combined 44 points and dropped a fourteen-point game at home to Washington State. All hope looked to be lost for Arizona.
Having regrouped with back-to-back wins over California and Stanford, the Wildcats now sit at 16-12 and 7-8 in Pac-12 play, which is rare territory for the usually dominant program. They’re 6.5 games back of league-leader Washington (and in a three-way tie with Colorado and Stanford) with just four games left on their conference slate. Arizona is setting themselves up to not only miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, but show that the fallout from the still looming NCAA corruption scandal is all too real.
They’ll look to take another step in a positive direction on Thursday night at Oregon State.
The cast hasn’t changed too much for Arizona, despite some severe struggles, as guard Brandon Randolph (13.1 PPG) is still there go-to option overall and forward Chase Jeter (11.7 PPG) has been rediscovering his form across the board.
Miller has experimented more with pieces like big man Ira Lee (6.5 PPG) and sharpshooter Alex Barcello (3.8 PPG) since Emmanuel Akot departed the program, but consistency has been this group’s biggest issue. Rarely, does any combination of the recently returned Brandon Williams (11.7 PPG), Justin Coleman (9.1 PPG), Ryan Luther (8.3 PPG) and Dylan Smith (6.8 PPG) quartet, all play well at the same time.
Usually, it’s a guessing game of the Wildcats as to just who will show up on any given night.
To add fuel to the fire, reports of Miller being subpoenaed in the aforementioned corruption trial won’t do any favors for the Wildcats’ focus level, which may only aid in Oregon State’s quest to leapfrog Arizona State for the second-spot in the Pac-12.
At the moment, the Beavers sit just a half-game back of the Sun Devils and have won three of their last four contests overall, while Arizona State has a brutal three-game road stretch awaiting them at Oregon, Oregon State and rival Arizona.
Somehow, even in a down year for the Conference of Champions, there’s a real chance some of these wild conference standings will come down to the final days of the regular season.
Player To Watch
Ira Lee (Sophomore) - Sean Miller recently said that Ira Lee is “playing the best basketball of his Arizona career” and you’d be hard-pressed to argue with the coach, after the sophomore forward poured in 16 points on a 6-7 shooting display in the team’s most recent victory over Stanford. Lee is a hard-working, blue-collar type of forward, who brings strong energy and enthusiasm, usually in short bursts. That style of player has shown to give the Beavers trouble throughout the season, as Oregon State lacks the front-court depth to handle too many interior talents.
- Date: Thursday, February 28th
- Time: 6:00 PM PT
- Location: Gill Coliseum (Corvallis, OR)
- Coverage: Fox Sports 1