The 2009-10 "What If" Arizona Wildcats Team
With the Pac-10 and NCAA tournaments on the horizon, Wildcat fans start to wonder, what if?
What if the NCAA enacted a rule that said college basketball players had to play all four years before turning pro, or the players decided that they just liked college too much?
What would that team look like?
Would they have played well together, or would it have been egos clashing?
There are many questions Wildcat fans wonder about, but here is the look of that team.
Point Guard: Brandon Jennings
We start at the position that has been Arizona's forte: point guard.
Brandon Jennings has been stellar in his first year in the NBA. The Milwaukee Buck exploded at the beginning of the year, quickly jumping out to be the favorite for Rookie of the Year.
While his play has cooled, he is still averaging 15 points and six assists a game, including a 55-point performance in November. He became the youngest player to ever score 55.
Rather than opting to play in Europe, Jennings would have been the playmaker on the team and the best player on the court for the Wildcats.
Shooting Guard: Jerryd Bayless
The backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Jerryd Bayless would be in contention for one of the best backcourts in Arizona history.
The Wildcats would have two guys who can score and pass.
Bayless was the Wildcats' best player two seasons ago. He wasn't afraid to take the last shot and wasn't afraid to call out his teammates.
In that 2007-08 season, he was the reason that Arizona was even competitive in most games and a big reason why the consecutive tournament streak stayed intact that season.
Bayless has a fire to become the best, and sometimes that comes across as being a selfish teammate.
He undoubtedly would be the leader of the team, and while some would say his tactics are too selfish and may not be popular in the locker room, he's just trying to win.
Small Forward: Chase Budinger
Chase was a player that some fans think didn't live up to expectations.
He came in as the highest rated player in Arizona history. Lute Olson compared him to Sean Elliott.
Did he live up to those expectations? No.
Would he have thrived on this team? Yes.
On this team he would have been the third or fourth scoring option. He would have been able to focus on just blending in and not having to be the man.
Budinger was a solid player for the Wildcats but didn't step up until he was stepped on. Houston player Aubrey Coleman stepped on Chase's face last January, and that seemed to set a fire underneath the forward.
He went on a tear the rest of the year and helped make the push that got Arizona in the tourney and to the Sweet 16.
Power Foward: Derrick Williams
The only current Wildcat to make the starting list for the What-If Cats.
Williams has been a surprise for this year's team. The freshman is averaging 15.7 points and seven rebounds a game.
He has become the focal point for this year's offense and on this team would not have to do anything other than play. He wouldn't have to be the man and wouldn't even be the best post player on the team.
Williams is a team player and would do whatever he was asked to in order to help the team.
Center: Jordan Hill
Hill is the Wildcats' best post player of the past decade.
He finally would have a legitimate post partner in Williams and would no longer be the only guy down low for the Cats.
The one weakness for Hill was getting in foul trouble. On this team he would not always have to be guarding the other team's best post player. He would have help and wouldn't have to shoulder the load as much as he did.
With the duo of Williams and Hill down low, it's a pick your poison scenario. Which guy do you want to let beat you tonight?
Of all the players who would benefit from this situation, it would have been Hill who benefited the most.
Now I know I am picking and choosing here because if everyone stays, the scholarship situation wouldn't work out like this, as not all of these players would have likely come here, but it's my list.
For all of the great things that Nic Wise has done for the Wildcats, he likely would have not turned into the player that he is today. He would have been a great backup point guard behind Jennings and been a solid role player for Arizona.
Momo Jones and Kyle Fogg would have been the other guards on the squad. Momo would have learned from some of the best guards in the NCAA while keeping the bench warm. Fogg would have provided some great spot minutes for the Cats and would provided some shooting off the bench for the Cats.
Jamelle Horne, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom would be the backup forwards and bring something different.
Horne's athleticism would have given him the most minutes. He is a streaky player. When his streak is on, he is a good player; when it is off, he would see the bench like he has this season.
Hill is a versatile player who can do a little bit of everything and has shown flashes of being good this season.
Parrom's forte has been defense, and while he seems to be getting the rap of a dirty player, he isn't. He plays tough, but on this team he wouldn't have played much.
The backup centers would be Jeff Withey and Kyryl Natyazhko. Withey is riding the bench for Kansas now, transferring after Lute Olson retired. He would have been able to watch and learn from playing Jordan Hill in practice. He would have spelled Hill and been a nice sub off the bench.
Natyazhko would have likely redshirted on this team.
Could This Team Win the National Championship?
Let's assume that ever player has to stay four years. Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook are still at UCLA, and O.J. Mayo is at USC, for example.
This team would have resembled how it used to be for the Wildcats: Run through the Pac-10 schedule and have two epic battles against UCLA.
They would have been, at the lowest, a three seed. If they put egos aside, they would be the best team in the country.
This team makes a run to the national championship game, including an epic Final Four game against Duke.
This sets up an national championship where Arizona plays Illinois.
The Wildcats, down seven with 40 seconds left in the game, come from behind to send the game to overtime. Bayless scores five of the seven points, including the game-tying shot with two seconds remaining. The Cats use this momentum to win by six in overtime.
(I know Illinois isn't good this year, but every Arizona fan knows why I chose them.)