Posted on: February 17, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 2:37 pm

It's a good night to be an Arizona Wildcat

Posted by MATT JONES

Thursday was a good day to be an Arizona Wildcat fan. After a few years of slow decline in which the Wildcats slipped behind not only fellow Pac 10 power UCLA, but also plebeian programs like Washington, Arizona announced to the basketball world on Thursday that it was back. With two important victories, Sean Miller's program made clear that Arizona basketball is ready to once again own basketball on the West Coast.

First came the commitment of 2011 Top 50 prospect Angelo Chol. The forward prospect is a nice player that any program would love to add, but what made the decision more important than usual is the way in which Sean Miller was able to bring Choi into the fold. Every year, a couple of players wait until late in the game to make their decision and then when power programs see openings in their roster, these late deciders become the basketball equivalent of the pair of 6s hanging out at the bar at closing time. Such was the case with Choi, who initially was recruited by Arizona and second-tier BCS schools like Alabama. Then as powerhouses like Kansas and North Carolina realized they would have an open slot, Choi became a priority, making his commitment a much tougher prize to win.

But that didn't faze Sean Miller. Determined to take Arizona back to its rightful place as the king of West Coast recruiting, Miller kept after Choi and was able to land the commitment of the hottest prospect left in the 2011 class. Choi will certainly help Arizona on the court immediately, but his greatest legacy may actually take place off the hardwood. For Choi represents a recruiting battle won against programs that rarely lose such competitions. When North Carolina, Kansas, Duke or Kentucky want a player, they are usually nabbed and only rarely will they fall to a school outside of the chosen group. Arizona used to be in the West Coast representative in that recruiting royalty class, but had fallen out in recent years, replaced on the West Coast by UCLA. Now with Choi's commitment, Sean Miller has served notice that Arizona is back in the fight, with no player outside of its reach.

The same type of success is now also present on the court as tonight Arizona continued its hot streak with its 7th straight victory. The Wildcats took out Washington State 79-70 in Tucson and set up a three game stretch upcoming that will determine the Pac 10 championship. Led by Derrick Williams's 26 points, Arizona held off a late Cougar rally to get its 14th straight home win and remain one game ahead in the top-heavy Pac 10.

The win allows Arizona to focus on its three game run that is likely the most important of the Sean Miller era. The Wildcats host Washington on Saturday before hitting the road to play USC and UCLA. The Huskies and Bruins are both within striking distance in the conference race and a sweep over the twosome would likely mean a regular season conference title. But maybe even more importantly, those two wins could re-establish Arizona's dominance on the court going forward in both the Pac 10 and over the West Coast more generally. If Arizona can win a Pac 10 title only one year after missing the NCAA Tournament, then conference rivals should be very nervous about what is to happen when all of his recruits end up in Tuscon in the coming seasons.

So in one day, Sean Miller defeats two of the four best recruiting powers in America for a Top 50 recruit and sets up a scenario in which Arizona could over the next 10 days win the Pac 10 title, and reclaim superiority of the left side of the college basketball nation. For Arizona fans, I would guess it is safe to say, Thursday was a good day.

Category: NCAAB
Tags: Arizona
Posted on: February 15, 2011 2:10 pm

Can Kyle Fogg boost Arizona's season-ending play?

Arizona's postseason success could depend on Kyle FoggPosted by Eric Angevine

There's no denying that Arizona's Derrick Williams is a superstar player. While he's unlikely to get any serious looks for Player of the Year on the national scene, he should get the nod in the Pac-10, at least.

The problem is that Williams does virtually everything for the Arizona Wildcats. He lead the team in scoring, rebounding, shooting, blocked shots and even steals. That's good enough to win in the Pac-10, but won't do a thing for the Wildcats come tourney time. A good team will find a way to force Williams' teammates to take more of the shots, and that will be their undoing.

Or will it? In Sunday night's destruction of in-state rival Arizona State, junior guard Kyle Fogg finally came alive, going 6 of 9 from deep and scoring a season-high 26 points. In other contests, he has led the Arizona passing game, hitting the six assist mark on three different occasions, and getting to seven in a November game against New Mexico State. These discrete moments serve as a rather tantalizing puzzle. If Fogg can either score or distribute consistently over the next three weeks, Williams will have the reliable second fiddle he so desperately needs for postseason success.

And a sidekick is nice to have, especially when he can stroke the outside jumper and keep the defense from collapsing like a black hole. Still, for true postseason success, I'd argue that Arizona needs one more role player: a dedicated rebounder.

Williams averages 8.0 rebounds per game, which is nearly double what any other individual on the team contributes. He's good at it, so of course he's going to get his. What 'Zona doesn't want to see is Williams getting into foul trouble because he feels like he's the only guy in red, white and blue who can do the job. 6-foot-6 Solomon Hill actually has the knack, and he's been on a nice run of late. Hill nabbed six boards in each of the three road wins Arizona collected over the past few days. Against Stanford and ASU, his cumulative 12 rebounds were ALL on the defensive end. Nobody's asking Hill to match what Williams produces on the glass, but more defensive games like those will be welcome. Jamelle Horne, Jesse Perry and Kevin Parrom have each shown that they can contribute some boards in sort of a loose rotation.

Opposing defenses will continue to surround Williams whether his teammates play well or not. He's just that dangerous. However, if Fogg and Hill do what they need to to do back up their star teammate, that tactic will become less effective. If Fogg shoots and makes, great. If Fogg shoots and misses, he and Williams need to know that Hill, Perry or Horn will be ready, willing and able to secure rebounds that fall to their area.

The Wildcats host the traveling pair of Washington State on Thursday and Washington on Saturday. While we're unlikely to see a radical move toward the three-headed monster Sean Miller no doubt dreams of, more incremental progress and two wins would signal a welcome move toward postseason lock status for the Wildcats. 
Posted on: February 13, 2011 10:45 am
Posted on: January 3, 2011 12:58 am

'Zona off to the worst start of any team in 2011

Posted by Matt Norlander

This is not how reputations are mended.

The 12-2 Arizona Wildcats just went into Corvallis and did the worst thing they could have done (other than get stuck in Corvallis): lost.

Not good at all for 'Zona, which probably will now claw with other wannabes in the conference to earn the No. 2 spot come the end of the regular season. That kind of finish will hardly guarantee an NCAA berth, even with the field expanding to 68 teams this March.

The Pac-10 is believed to be improved from last season (not hard to do; the Pac-10 was at an all-time low last year year), but these kinds of results are horrifying and hurting the conference's credibility as a whole.

Oregon State was 6-6 entering this game, its six losses coming to teams that were a combined two games under .500, and that's with the help of a couple paper tigers like Colorado and Montana. Where Arizona goes from here, we'll see. But Derrick Williams must get more involved and the team can't lack the focus or energy it so clearly did tonight.

The bright spot — the game did produce a hell of a highlight. Here's Beaver Jared Cunningham with a sick one-handed put-back in traffic (via @bubbaprog) . It's so springy.

Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com