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Arizona Wildcats Basketball: Why They Are Best Defensive Team in School History

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Arizona Wildcats Basketball: Why They Are Best Defensive Team in School History
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — During the Lute Olson years, the Arizona Wildcats prided themselves on defense but also a transition game that enabled them to stay ahead of the pace of their opponents.

The Arizona Wildcats are ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring offense with 73.5 points per game. In the pre-Sean Miller era, a No. 8 ranking in that category would be ungodly with the likes of Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves, Gilbert Arenas, Andre Iguodala and Jerryd Bayless, etc.

Arizona's faithful have adapted to the change of principle under Sean Miller, who has developed a defense-first mentality with his players.

 "I have changed my mindset to thinking everything starts with defense," Gabe York, a sophomore guard, told me after Arizona's 71-39 shutdown win over Utah in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

"I have realized that if you concentrate on your defense, everything else will fall into place. It all starts with staying in front of your man and make the stop. The offense will take care of itself."

This is coming from a player who was recruited out of high school as primarily an accurate perimeter shooter.

Arizona's mindset on defense has enabled it to be the best defensive team in the history of the program, which has evolved into one of the nation's elite since Olson arrived in Tucson.

Some of the factors that contribute to that claim are defensive statistics rarely (if ever) produced and the play of starting perimeter players Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell, the best defensive tandem in Wildcat history.

The following slideshow documents why the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats are the best defensive team since the school started playing basketball 109 years ago.


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