Coast 2 Coast Hoops
It would be foolish for Arizona to overlook its matchup with Oral Roberts on Tuesday, but as fans we are afforded the luxury of looking back or looking ahead while the real basketball minds make the game plans.
So no disrespect to Oral Roberts, who has been a historically good program for a small, religious school with a strict behavioral code
, and who also claim Ned Flanders as an alumnus
, but there's more to be said about Arizona's stunning 65-64 win over #8 Florida. I'm sorry to all the ORU hoops fans reading this, but the Wildcats' big victory over the Gators deserves top billing for one more night.
If you saw the game or the highlights, it's obviously one that people are going to remember for a long time. The improbable comeback, the frantic finish, and the last second heroics made a picture perfect addition to Wildcat lore.
But that's not the only reason Cat fans won't hesitate to bring up the instant classic all season and probably long thereafter. Not only was it the biggest regular season win in the Sean Miller era, but Arizona acquired a major asset for their NCAA Tournament portfolio.
The significance of the win will be apparent when bracketologists are splitting hairs among the nation's elite teams this March. The teams with gaudy records but no marquee wins invariably slide down the seed lines on Selection Sunday and find themselves with a more difficult road to the Final Four.
With the way the Pac-12 has shaped up this year, Arizona was a popular pick to be one of those teams that stacked up easy wins but ended up with an anemic body of work.
But in just one night, Arizona squashed that thought. No one can say that Arizona's postseason résumé should end up being anything but sparkling. And no one can say that Arizona is not among the nation's elite teams this year.
But, of course, they will. There are plenty who still refuse to give Arizona the national respect they rightfully earned by beating Florida. Take this clever spin on the Wildcats' win
, which correctly points out that the Gators led comfortably for the majority of the game. However, the author goes on to say that "Florida could win a national title... Arizona will be good enough to make it to the second weekend of the tournament if their big men continue to develop... Florida is one of the five best teams in the country and Arizona isn’t."
Make no mistake about it. Whether uninformed bloggers fail to recognize it, Arizona is among the nation's elite and absolutely, without doubt, is a National Championship front runner. As a team that is far from it's ceiling, the Wildcats will enter the postseason as a bonafide contender.
To be fair, the same blogger acknowledged that Arizona's win brings them legitimate credibility
, and that good teams find ways to win games through adversity. But there's a blindness in saying that Florida is on another level than Arizona, and baseless opinions veiled as analysis like the ones above should be exposed for what they are.
Florida is an excellent team. So is Arizona. To make statements about which team is categorically better after barely two months of play is a fool's game, though there seems to be no shortage of participants. Chances are both teams will have a good shot at being the last team standing this year, and anyone who says otherwise is probably just giving the old magic 8-ball a shake.
So Wildcat fans should feel vindicated by their #4 ranking, and they should continue to smile and laugh off the detractors who haven't caught wind of exactly how good this team is and can be.
A feather in their cap for whoever coined the idiom "Haters gonna hate," a saying that strikes comically at a truth about human nature. No matter how many more games Arizona wins this year, there will always be a small group that refuses to give due credit.
But with the way the Wildcats are rounding into form, that group is getting smaller by the day, and it's only a matter of time until the entire country realizes Arizona is National Championship caliber.