Arizona had its chance at winning a national title last year with an Elite 8 matchup against eventual champion Connecticut. After knocking off Texas and Duke in the previous two rounds, they came up a few points short against the Huskies in a 65-63 nail-biter as a 3.5-point underdog.
Nonetheless, it was a very successful season for this perennial PAC-12 power, earning a regular season conference championship after going 14-4 in conference play. The Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 30-8.
They also had a solid record against the spread, going 20-15-1 in games that had a posted college basketball odds.
2011-12 Arizona Wildcats College Basketball Outlook
With Derrick Williams moving to the greener pastures in the NBA, Arizona will have to rely on a number of players to step up their games to come anywhere close to matching last season’s achievements.
It has a solid core of players that can all put the ball in the hoop, but no one superstar to carry the load like Williams did last year.
Senior guard Kyle Fogg and junior forward Solomon Hill are the two leading scorers left from last year’s team. They each averaged eight points a game, but will undoubtedly account for much more of the offensive production this season.
Junior guard/forward Kevin Parrom is the Wildcats best defensive player, but he is still recovering from multiple gunshot wounds to his leg and his hand he sustained a few months back.
Freshman guard Josiah Turner and senior forward Jesse Perry should round out Arizona’s starting five come opening day.
Arizona Wildcats Key Additions
Along with Turner, the Wildcats added forwards Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson to provide some depth in the front court along with guard Nick Johnson in the back court. None of these players are expected to make an immediate impact, but all are capable of working their way into the lineup as the season progresses.
Arizona Wildcats Key Losses
While Williams was by far the biggest loss from last season, Arizona will also be without guard Lamont Jones. He was the team’s second leading scorer behind Williams with 9.7 points per game.
Also gone is forward Jamelle Horne, who averaged 18 minutes off the bench while chipping-in 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds a game.
2011-12 Arizona Basketball Schedule
Arizona opens its season on Nov. 7 against Valparaiso in the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic before opening up its Pac-12 play against in-state rival Arizona State on Dec. 31.
It plays a very ambitious nonconference schedule with games against a couple of teams ranked in the preseason polls. On Dec. 7 its travels cross-country to face No. 10 Florida and 10 days later it squares off against No. 23 Gonzaga.
The Wildcats conference schedule really heats up towards the end of January with games against Washington State, Washington and California in the span of a week. The biggest challenge to winning another conference title appears to be UCLA, which is on the slate with a road game on Jan. 5 and at home on Feb. 25.
Arizona Predictions for College Basketball
Williams will be hard to replace, but many of the preseason polls remain bullish on the Wildcats to still be the team to beat in the Pac-12. The ESPN/USA Today’s poll ranks Arizona No.16, while the Sporting News has it ranked 12th. The initial AP poll also has the Wildcats ranked at No. 16.
BetOnline has Arizona as the favorite to win the conference at +110 with the Bruins a close second at +125. When it comes to winning a National Championship, the Wildcats are in the second-tier of favorites at +2500.
Unless some of the youth on this team grow up in a hurry, it is doubtful that Arizona will find itself as a No. 5 seed again come tournament time. However, this team is still good enough to be a single-digit seed and possibly make it back to the Sweet 16 if everything falls into place.