Despite getting off to a 17-2 overall record and a top 10 ranking, the Arizona Wildcats are sitting in third place within the Pac-12. Behind Oregon and UCLA, both teams that beat the Wildcats, Arizona (5-2) continues to fight for the top spot in the conference.
With only 11 games remaining in the regular season, all of which are conference match-ups, the Wildcats must begin to focus in on their defense. In order for the Wildcats to be successful, it seems as if they have to limit their opponents to under 70 points. So far this season, they are 14-0 when the opposing team has not scored 70 points. When they have surpassed that number, Arizona is 3-2.
Although there may be additional flaws, it is essential that the Wildcats fix their defense first because through good defense, more scoring occurs. On average, the Wildcats’ score 1.096 points per possession which makes them the 12th most efficient offense in college basketball. With a few more defensive stops per game, Arizona may well be on its way to dominating the opposition.
After the game against Arizona State University, freshman forward, Brandon Ashley admitted to the lack of defensive effort saying, “Honestly, I just focused on defense a lot more. Earlier in the season I was focused on how many points and rebounds I was getting, not necessarily whether I was stopping the person that I was guarding. Changing my perspective and focusing more on defense, that definitely helped me out a lot.”
The real question is how will Arizona improve its defense?
Wildcats head coach Sean Miller has been working on improving the defense by sticking the freshman, Ashley, on talented senior forwards Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom. By guarding them, he has been forced to become quicker and more versatile allowing him to defend both a perimeter forward and a low-post savvy forward.
As a result, Miller will have a team that is much more versatile and better prepared to play any team in the country.
On the other side of the court, the Wildcats are clearly a team all about possession and getting the best shot, rather than just the first open shot. Due to their slower tempo of play, the Wildcats will have to rely more on their veterans for offense. Players like Hill, Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons have proven all season that they can step up offensively in big games as they lead all scorers on the team.
In the end, the key to success for the Wildcats lays in the hands of both the veterans and the freshman. When it comes to attacking the hoop at critical times, the ball should stay with the players who have done it before. On defense, the big freshman forwards must step up and get stops in order for Arizona to be successful.
When it comes down to it, the Wildcats have all the necessary pieces in order to be a great team. However, the only way they will achieve their ultimate goal is by understanding and executing their specific roles. If that is accomplished, the WildCats will be a scary match-up for any team they face in future.