2010-2011 PAC-10 Champions, Your Arizona Wildcats!

Posted on March 5, 2011 by


With today’s 90-82 win over Oregon in McKale, our Arizona Wildcats earned their first Pacific 10 Mens’ Basketball Championship Title in six years. It was a long and hard-fought battle all season, with some lucky bounces, diligent fortitude, and deep-rooted hunger. The Wildcats will now move on to the PAC-10 Tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California next week as the No. 1 seed. We currently await our match-up, but it could be any of three teams that will be dictated by the results of today’s games, Stanford, Oregon, or Oregon State.

Now that the regular season is a wrap and we look ahead, I would like to do a little recap and reflect on how the Wildcats closed out the season.

It seems that after what will go down in Arizona lore as “The Block” to give us the “W” over Washington, the ‘Cats have not been the same. Big games are known to take it out of teams and impact their performances to follow. Arizona is not alone in this. We were demolished in our road visit to the Los Angeles schools. UCLA, in particular, gave us the beating of a decade in their 71-49 trouncing to take a share of the perch atop the conference standings.

Derrick Williams quite evidently appears to be the most afflicted by the exalting celebration in the beating of Washington. He responded with an 8 point performance against USC and has not yet broken above 15 points in any of the four matches since. Just as a reminder, he averaged over 19 points a game coming into this last chapter of the season. He seems to have lost his energy, his dominance, his effectiveness. We haven’t seen the athleticism he displayed during his high-flying no-look dunks throughout the entirety of the rest of the season. He still managed to put up 20 points after his pinky injury and 26 against both Washington State and Washington. I think it might be time for Wildcats to start worrying. He has been effective, but by no means a “star” over the past four games. Understanding that other teams must develop their game plans around neutralizing him and that him being on the floor alters the way the other team plays us, I still find it hard to whole-heartedly accept that his performance over the past few games hasn’t been less that Williams-esque. As I said before, Williams might best be served by staying another year and he is demonstrating why.

With that said, Kyrl Natyazhko. This guy has suddenly become a contributor! Earlier this season, whenever he would go to check-in to the game, I would cringe and count the seconds until he was taken out. This guy was so difficult to watch just a few games ago. I used to count the seconds until his first foul would come, undoubtedly within 15 seconds on the court. He put up 6 points and 4 rebounds today and contributed some valuable minutes against both UCLA and Oregon State the past few games. I have been waiting so long to see this guy move out of the liability column. He was something like the player of the Under-20 European tournament this past summer averaging just under Derrick Williams-type statistics. It is great to see his hard work and skill translate into game-time relevance.

Solomon “Solo” Hill has showed that he can do it solo. His emergence the past couple games has been phenomenal. He put up 14 points and pulled down 4 boards. Hill has shown a knack for making stuff happen when we need it most. To his credit, he is the one who tipped the go-ahead bucket in during the thrilling triple-overtime at Cal this year. Also, whenever the team seems to be loosing effort or focus, here he comes to make something happen for us, whether is be a swirling post-up, or a much needed three-pointer. He has shown the ability, maturity, and basketball IQ to really be a great player for us in the future. Whether Williams stays or goes, I guarantee his number will be called more often and with just reason.

The Wildcats now move into tournament mode. The PAC-10 Tournament should prove important for the ‘Cats in that it will allow them to get into that sort of do-or-die mentality. We will be facing the best-of-the-best in the NCAA Tournament with everyone playing for everything! Last week’s Los Angeles trip hurt our NCAA Tournament seeding argument, but we should, nonetheless, be able to sit comfortably in the middle of the pack. Which, I might argue towards being the best placement. Being anywhere from a 5-8 seed in the tournament allows teams to play other teams near or around their talent for the first few games rather than facing a No. 1 seed and dealing with the psychology that goes along with playing “lesser” teams, or having a lower seed and knowing that every team you play is supposedly better than you. It is a harder road to glory. But, then again, the road to glory is never easy.