Pac-12 Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Clinch Pac-12 with 79-66 Win over Stanford

USA Today
Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 3, 2014

With a trip to the Oregon schools still remaining, Arizona has already wrapped up the Pac-12 regular-season title. 

The Wildcats handled Stanford, 79-66, at home on Sunday night, securing Sean Miller's second conference title in five seasons in Tuscon. 

SportsCenter confirmed the news, along with a Rajon Rondo-esque highlight from freshman phenom Aaron Gordon, while Arizona Basketball on Twitter provided a historical look at the team's success:

Miller talked about the feat after the game, via Rivals' Tracy McDannald and the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe:

Although Arizona still has two regular-season games remaining, as well as the conference tournament in Las Vegas, all eyes now start to slowly turn towards the Big Dance, where Miller's squad will carry a No. 1 seed barring a late-season meltdown. 

For a while, Arizona's postseason outlook was beginning to look bleak.

After Brandon Ashley was lost for the season early against California, the Wildcats went 2-2 over their next four games (including that contest against the Bears), struggling to find consistency on the offensive end. Per KenPom.com (subscription required), they scored just 0.91 points per possession against Cal, 1.06 against Oregon, 1.23 against Oregon State and 0.90 in a double-overtime loss to in-state rival Arizona State. 

But following that defeat, Miller moved freshman defensive standout Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the bench in favor of sophomore Gabe York, and the change has worked wonders. 

Over their last three games, the Wildcats have trounced Colorado, Cal and Stanford, scoring a whopping 1.25 points per possession.

CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein put it simply:

Even if the 'Cats' offense doesn't continue to flourish at this rate, their defense will continually keep them in games during March. With T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson on the perimeter, along with Gordon's elite athleticism and Kaleb Tarczewski's size on the interior, Arizona boasts one of the most imposing defenses in America. 

Miller's squad isn't without its flaws. Depth and free-throw shooting stand out as weaknesses, but behind a defense that ranks first in KenPom.com's efficiency rankings, Arizona is a tall task for any team.

A conference title is nice, but it's just the first step for the Wildcats, who have proved that even without Ashley, they are a legitimate contender to cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium in April. 

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