By Josh Kramer
Now I already know what you all are thinking. Who isn’t already keeping an eye on the Wildcats when it comes to college basketball? Calipari’s “Traveling All- Stars” have appeared in two consecutive Final Fours and of course cut down the nets in April. I am not talking about Lexington’s Wildcats though. I am referring to the Arizona Wildcats.
So the Pac-12 this past season in terms of hoops was an utter embarrassment. The Washington Huskies took home the dubious honor of becoming the first team in the modern era of the NCAA tournament to win a power-conference regular-season championship and not receive an at-large bid. Well that was the past. The Pac-12 will be far stronger during the 2012/2013 season in large part due to to two familiar faces: UCLA and Arizona. Today though, I am focused on Lute Olson’s former employer.
After a disappointing season in which they lost in the opening round of the NIT, the expectations are once again high in Tucson. First of all the Wildcats are led by one of the best coaches in America that is still flying under the radar, Sean Miller. Miller is another coach that was produced from the coaching gold mine that is Xavier University. This guy did a remarkable job in leading the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2011 and helping mold Derrick Williams into a lottery pick. Things looked bleak for Arizona though with the transfer of point guard Josiah Turner. In actuality, things just got a whole lot better.
I am not sure Arizona knows what they are getting in former Xavier star Mark Lyons. I will be the first one to say that this guy has a major issue with keeping his trap shut. But he also has some major game. No longer in the shadow of former teammate Tu Holloway, Lyons will likely be in the conversation for newcomer of the year in the Pac-12 and a potential all-conference player. Not to mention Lyons already has a rapport with Coach Miller in that Miller recruited him out of Schenectady, New York five years ago.
Arizona also has an outstanding recruiting class coming in headlined by Brandon Ashley, from the basketball factory that is Findlay Prep. Plus, they have a solid core returning led by Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson. Don’t forget that the Wildcats still won 23 games last year despite the early departure of Derrick Williams and the transfer of MoMo Jones. Times are about to good in Tucson. Now Lute Olson good, that remains to be seen.
Most definitely keep an eye on the Wildcats in 2012/2013 though. The Arizona Wildcats that is.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.