Arizona Wildcats Overtake First Place in Pac-10

Tom PhillipsCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2010

WESTWOOD, CA - JANUARY 15:  Nic Wise #13 of the Arizona Wildcats brings the ball upcourt during the college basketball game against the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on January 15, 2009 in Westwood, California. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats 83-60.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When the Arizona Wildcats beat the California Bears, they did something they had not done in four years. Be in first place.

That's right. It has been quite some time since Arizona could say it was in first place at the midway point of the conference schedule.

Sean Miller has turned this rag tag bunch around and made them into a serious threat for the Pac-10 title.

On December 28, Arizona got blown out by 30 points on their home court by BYU. Fans were down on the team and even embarrassed.

So was Miller. Miller said he was more shocked that the Wildcats were not booed out of the arena after the blowout loss.

That game has helped to prove to be the turning point of the season.

Arizona lost the next game to USC but has won six of eight since the new year started. The two games they lost have been by two and three points.

The Wildcats are on a four game winning streak heading into the last half of the Pac-10 schedule. They seem to be getting hot at the right time.

The only downside for Arizona is being in first place means nothing at this point this year.

They are tied for first with Cal. The difference between first place and ninth place is two games. In the matter of a weekend, a team could go from the top to the bottom.

The parity in the conference will likely cost the conference at least two spots in the tournament. Pac-10 teams will continue to beat up on each other week in and week out.

If Arizona is going to continue to stay at the top of the Pac-10, they will need to continue to improve every week.

The freshman have matured greatly since the Pac-10 season started. Derrick Williams is on his way to winning Pac-10 freshman of the year. Momo Jones has shown consistency and has found his role on the team. Kevin Parrom has brought the X factor that Arizona was missing when he returned from injury.

Nic Wise is realizing that he doesn't have to be the feature player on the team. He is a better player when the focus is not on him. He is able to create and penetrate better when defenses are not collapsing on him and have to stay true to their assigned player. Derrick Williams is allowing Wise to do this.

Sean Miller and company are finally clicking and there is not a better time for Arizona to be putting it together.