The Arizona Wildcats are the No. 5 seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament, where they'll face 12th-seeded Memphis in the first round. The Wildcats lost to Washington in the Pac-10 Tournament championship on Saturday night.
The Wildcats need no introduction to NCAA basketball fans; their success in recent history speaks for itself. After longtime coach Lute Olson took a leave of absence in 2007 and subsequently retired in 2008, the program appeared to be heading downhill. The low point was in 2009-10, when Arizona failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years.
The Wildcats, in search of a new coach to restore Tucson to its former glory, hired then-Xavier head coach Sean Miller to take the reins of the program after the 2008-09 season. After a rough year of transition, Miller has largely delivered on the promise in his second campaign and was reward with Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors.
The Wildcats were the class of the Pac-10 this season, going 14-4 in conference play and going undefeated at home in the regular season. They faltered towards the end of the year, dropping both road games in Los Angeles in late February, but regained their footing and took home their 12th regular season conference title.
There are a lot of unresolved questions when it comes to this season's Arizona squad: can they hang with the best teams in the country? Arizona has not defeated a ranked team this entire season, going 0-3 against schools ranked in the top 25 (Kansas, BYU, and Washington). The only way to know for sure is to play the games.
Another thing to worry about is the play of Pac-10 Player of the Year Derrick Williams, who has faltered down the stretch after having a career season. This oft-predicted lottery pick still has unfinished business on campus, and needs to refocus for the postseason.
Record: 27-7, 14-4 Pac-10
Key wins: On Feb. 5, the Arizona Wildcats defeated the California Golden Bears in triple overtime, 107-105. It was easily their highest scoring output of the season, and showed that Arizona would not back down from a fight in a hostile setting. ... On Feb. 19, the Wildcats scored their biggest win of the season, putting away the Washington Huskies 87-86 at home in Tucson. Derrick Williams came up with a huge block during the last few seconds of regulation to ensure the victory.
Key losses: On Nov. 27 in Las Vegas, Arizona lost 87-79 to the Kansas Jayhawks. The Wildcats kept it close the entire game but were unable to come away with the win. Derrick Williams scored 27 points in a losing effort. ... On Dec. 11 in Salt Lake City, the BYU Cougars dismantled the Wildcats 87-65. BYU took a 44-25 lead at the half and cruised to victory on the back of Jimmer Fredette's 33 points.
Players to watch: Derrick Williams, six-foot-eight sophomore forward, is averaging 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a game this season. Williams has led the Wildcats back from the brink of mediocrity and right into the spotlight. The star forward has only scored less than ten points once this entire season (in a loss to USC on Feb. 24 when he scored eight points) and has played well against tough competition (27 points against Kansas, 22 and 26 point games against Washington). Alongside Williams plays Lamont "MoMo" Jones, Arizona's point guard. Jones averages around 10 points a game and has played fairly well for Sean Miller. It's not fair to say that the Wildcats are a one-man team, but if Williams doesn't play well, Arizona doesn't have much of a shot against quality opponents.
Arizona profile by Corey Williams of SB Nation Arizona