The Arizona Wildcats claimed the West's No. 1 seed in the 2014 NCAA tournament—a foregone conclusion for the bulk of the season.
But Sean Miller's blueprint for facing the field from that high-profile slot was fundamentally altered over the last month.
Since losing power forward Brandon Ashley—one of the team's premier rebounders, interior defenders and mid-range shooters—to a broken foot in early February, Arizona went from polishing a Final Four lock to figuring out how to play minus absolute low-post dominance.
All four of the Wildcats' losses have come since losing Ashley—road losses at Cal, Arizona State and Oregon, and a neutral-site defeat to UCLA in the Pac-12 tourney. It was 21-0 before the injury, 9-4 since.
But the Wildcats have also compiled four of their most dominating performances of 2014 since that rough night in Berkeley:
- An 88-61 win at tourney-bound Colorado, one of the most difficult road environments in college hoops.
- A 87-59 rout of the Cal team that broke the Wildcats' undefeated run on the day Ashley went down for the year.
- A 71-39 pounding of fringe NCAA bubble-team Utah, followed by a second 20-plus point beatdown of Colorado, in the Pac-12 tourney.
There is still plenty to like about this Arizona team, even in the absence of one of its stars.
Here is the layout for Arizona making a serious run at the national title.