Arizona clinging on to national ranking as Pac-12 play begins this week
After dropping three of their final four non-conference games, Arizona is somewhat limping into conference play. The Wildcats, who dropped to No. 24 in the Coaches Poll and No. 25 in the AP Poll have posted a 10-3 record.
While losses to nationally-ranked teams Baylor (on the road) and Gonzaga (at home) were understandable, many heads were turned when Arizona was upset by St. John’s on a neutral court in Northern California on December 21.
Now, the Wildcats are preparing for a brutal start to the Pac-12 regular season, opening at home against rival Arizona State on Saturday, before tripping to the Pacific Northwest to first face No. 6 / No. 4 Oregon on Thursday, January 9 and then Oregon State the following Sunday. The games tip off a stretch of the year where the Wildcats will play five of their first eight conference games on the road, adding trips to Arizona State, Washington, and Washington State at the end of January. The only other home games for Arizona in the next 30 days, aside from its league opener at home against ASU, will be tips against Utah and Colorado on January 16 and January 18.
For an Arizona team that had high hopes entering the season, an unsuccessful January could spell doom.
The Wildcats were predicted to finish fourth in conference prior to the start of the season. The first eight league games will be an indicator of whether or not Arizona will meet, exceed, or fall short of expectations.
The freshmen trio of Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion, and Josh Green have led Arizona in nearly every statistical category. Nnaji led all Wildcats in scoring and rebounding, contributing 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Mannion averaged 14.6 points per game, while leading the team with 81 total assists. Green is averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while ranking third on the team with 31 total assists. Jemarl Baker is second on the team with 34 assists. The Kentucky transfer is averaging 7.1 points per game.
Arizona is averaging 83.7 points per game, while opponents are scoring 65.3 points per outing. The Wildcats are shooting just under 50 percent from the floor (.492), while opponents are only shooting at a 37.4 percent clip. Arizona is averaging 17.1 assists per game, but only holds a +3.6 rebounding margin. Arizona averaged 11.8 turnovers per game, produced 7.2 steals per game, 4.2 blocks per game, and is averaging 74.8 percent from the free throw line and 37.3 percent from behind the 3-Point arc.
The Wildcats finished non-conference play with a 7-1 record at home, 3-1 at neutral sites, and 0-1 away.
Arizona hosts Arizona State on Saturday, January 4 at 7:30 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.