If you read my content about Arizona basketball, you know three things about me: I’m a huge fan, I’m incredibly emotional, and said emotion’s always a roller coaster. That being said, I struggled finding a solid criterion to rank the seasons with. My first thought was to rank them from most heartbreaking to least, but then I thought, is an Elite Eight loss with TJ McConnell more heartbreaking than a first round loss with DeAndre Ayton? Both suck a lot.
My second idea was to rank teams based on success. However, there’s three different measures for success in college basketball: the regular season, conference tournament, and NCAA tournament. And which of those three, or which combination, is more important? Was the ’10-’11 team that won the Pac-10 regular season title and went to the Elite Eight more successful than the ’17-’18 that won the Pac-12 regular season and tournament yet lost in the first round (I find that the more I talk about the loss or type it, the less it hurts each time)?
After these considerations, I made an executive decision to rank the teams simply based on which season I enjoyed living through the most. Plain and simple. I’m taking my head out of the equation and just going with the heart.
This season was the worst in Sean Miller’s tenure for one simple reason: I have to do extensive research on it to remember it. Sure, I was in seventh grade, but I clearly remember getting into a heated argument with the head songleader at Camp Hess Kramer, my old sleep away camp, that Derrick Williams should’ve been the first overall pick in the draft when we learned about it via mail clippings sent by our parents during the summer before the season.
When the ‘Cats missed the tournament two years prior, it was like a definitive end of the Lute Olson era and the changing of the guards. When UA missed the tournament in 2012, it was pure disappointment. However, this season was important. It was Nick Johnson’s freshman year. It was a big year in Solomon Hill’s development. Jesse Perry was fun to watch.
My favorite moment from the season was one that I was fortunate enough to attend. Kevin Parrom was a fan favorite and a leader of the team. He was shot while returning home to the Bronx on September 27, just 40 days before Arizona’s first game (that obviously isn’t my favorite moment of the season). However, Parrom made his season debut in just the third game of the season against Ball State. He came off the bench in that game and McKale Center went ape shit. The Arizona faithful showed support not just for the “6”6’ guard from the Bronx, New York: Number three, Kevin Parrom,” but rather the Kevin Parrom who’d established himself as a fan favorite, who’d just been shot and also lost his mother. It was an incredible moment to be a Wildcat fan during an otherwise forgettable season.
This season was fun-ish. There were highlights, but it was incredibly sub-par and below what we’d come to expect. It never felt like an Arizona team. Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen played important roles in their first and only seasons in red and blue.
There was some promise in the season, however. Allonzo Trier made his Arizona debut as a freshman, but he broke his hand and missed major time. Parker Jackson-Cartwright played more and more minutes. Kadeem Allen was finally eligible to play.
The season was mainly disappointment, though. No conference title, a depressing loss in the conference semi-final tournament, and a first round loss to Wichita State. That really sucked. Funny story though — I went to the Pac-12 tournament for the first time that year with my mom and I painted my face bright red for both games that Arizona played in. The ‘Cats played in the semifinal before Utah played Cal. After Arizona lost I was walking around the concourse of the MGM Arena and a Utah fan jokingly asked if he could have some of my face paint so my mom let him palm my face and rub it on his. It made the loss a little better because I couldn’t get over how weird that was. Thanks, mom.
This season was defined by one word: hope. We were still riding the Obama ‘Hope‘ wave, plus Sean Miller had arrived and was poised to be the next amazing coach. Miller had brought in Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Momo Jones, Kevin Parrom and Kyryl Natyazhko. UA only went 16-15, but there was promise of bigger and better things. There was palpable energy around the group of guys.
It was probably a good thing that this team missed the tournament. It ended the 25 year streak and signaled to the program that they could no longer simply coast on the back of prior accomplishments.
December 15, 2012 was one of Arizona’s best days in the past 10 years. That day felt like the introduction of Miller and RichRod to the national scene as an elite duo. That worked out well. The importance of the 2012-2013 season is that it proved the Elite Eight run two years prior was no fluke. It showed sustained success and an ability to escape the first weekend of the tournament.
It was also the first year of the majority of Arizona’s best lineup since 1997. It was the Arizona faithful’s introduction to Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Gabe York. Grant Jarrett was also on the squad, but he’s the OG Chino Hills kid who thinks he’s better than he is (Editor’s note: Well oh my — what other Chino Hills kids could you ever be talking about?).
It always felt like this team was this close to doing something great. Mainly, had it not been for Mark Lyons and the Pac-12 refs, UA could’ve done something special. Never forget Miller’s technical foul in the semifinal of the Pac-12 tournament. What’d he say to get the T?
That loss should be blamed on Arizona’s point guard play more than anything, which looking back, is absolutely infuriating because the ‘Cats had TJ McConnell sitting on the bench after transferring. Mark Lyons is the perfect example of what Arizona can’t have under Sean Miller — a drive first point guard. He led Arizona to a win over Florida but, remember, had the ball stripped from him which led to the easiest two points UCLA scored all season in the conference tournament semifinal loss. Arizona only lost by two…
This season could’ve easily been ranked worse than fifth, but despite the crippling disappointment in March, I had an incredible time in the ZonaZoo and in McKale. Watching DeAndre Ayton bully poor souls was outstanding. I was able to witness Rawle Alkins absolutely murder a man in Vegas.
That’s my shirt sleeve, I swear.
That being said, Arizona should’ve played in the Final Four. Easily. Anything less would’ve been a disappointment, ESPECIALLY LOSING IN THE FIRST FREAKIN’ ROUND. AND DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE WHOLE FBI THING. I’M MAD AT MILLER, ESPN, THE NCAA, AND JAMES NAISMITH FOR INVENTING THE DAMN THING. AAH. All in all, it was an embarrassment to the basketball program and to my university.
Ok, I’m done.
Last season was pretty good. It ended with Sean Miller being outcoached, for the second consecutive year, but Arizona still won the conference and conference tournament. Miller brought in a great recruiting class, but again, it was pretty much for nothing. Allonzo Trier had his whole PED thing which wasn’t a good look.
Despite that, watching Lauri Markkanen hit three after three was a joy. Watching Kadeem Allen bust his ass every night was a thrill. The time out drama between Steve Alford and Sean Miller was rich. Arizona dismantling both UCLA and Oregon in the tournament was incredible (I got to go to that tournament, as well). This team, surprise, underachieved, but, hey, it wasn’t as bad as last season.
This season was the best surprise. The season prior the ‘Cats got to the Sweet 16, but I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted how deep the ‘Cats danced in March. The tournament run was pretty cliché, because it wasn’t about the destination, but rather the journey. Arizona snuck past Memphis in the first round. The ‘Cats should’ve lost to Texas, but remember that “five” second violation?
Derrick Williams is a freaking circus clown. Go back and watch highlights from that game. It’s a ridiculous mix of Arizona players breaking defenders down off the dribble and crazy assists from amazing off-ball movement. Wow.
That brings us to the Duke game. This game has several different layers of greatness. First of all, it’s Duke. Screw Duke. Duke was also a one seed. Screw them. Second of all, it was Kyle Singler’s last ever game ever in college basketball ever. Both Plumlee brothers also lost that day. I think one of the weirdest part of that game, was that Seth Curry started for Duke. Not Steph, who went to Davidson. Seth. Steph — Davidson. Seth — Duke. What? Finally, you’ll never guess who came off the bench for Duke. You guessed Kyrie? Great, it’s not a game show.
Furthermore, this game was an absolute demolishing. The ‘Cats won the past two games by a combined three points. UA won that game by 16, but it felt like a lot more than that. This game alone was a Derrick Williams highlight reel. Wow.
32 points on 17 shots, five of six from deep, 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block? Are you kidding me? And don’t forget MoMo Jones, who had 16 points and six assists. Solomon Hill also had 13. Ridiculous.
The season shouldn’t be defined just by the tournament, either. Arizona won the last ever regular season Pac-10 title. They also lost by only two in the conference tournament final to Isaiah Thomas’s Washington Huskies. They lost to Uconn by two in the NCAA tournament. They were that close to the college basketball treble — Conference title, Conference tournament title, and a Final Four.
This next sentence pretty much sums the last two teams: I LOVE TJ MCCONNELL. He’s my favorite player in Arizona history. He’s just so fun to watch. He was the smartest player in the conference both years he played here. I could tell just how much he and Miller love each other. He was just one of those players that you could really hold on to and root for. The whole team was like that.
Stanley Johnson came and made an immediate impact. This was also the year that gave us Dusan and PJC. But this year had an incredible combination of all four classes. TJ and Matt Korcheck (another all-time favorite) were seniors, Gabe Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley were juniors, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a sophomore.
This team was just plain dominant. They were merciless. But when they did, it was pretty heartbreaking. That loss in Tempe crushed my soul. I had no clue that Tra Holder was on that team, but I’m even happier that he’s out of the Pac.
This season’s loss to Wisconsin hurt a little less than the season prior. That Elite Eight seemed futile because of Kentucky’s team that season, yet, Wisconsin beat them, too. But damn, losing to Wisconsin for the second straight season, that really hurt.
This is the season when I truly fell in love with the Wildcats. For 21 straight games, I could absolutely count on this team not only winning but dominating. The ‘Cats beat Duke in MSG early in the season, and everyone could tell — this team was for real. Again, TJ McConnell. Nick Johnson. Aaron Gordon. Brandon Ashley. Kaleb Tarczewski. This team was stacked. They held Wazzu to seven points in an entire half. Damn.
The game against Cal cost the University of Arizona a national championship. Brandon Ashley broke his foot early in the game and the ‘Cats then lost by a buzzer beater. It was an emotional game, and then we lost to ASU in Tempe on Valentine’s Day, and that was the worst. The ‘Cats still won the conference, and nearly won the conference tournament, too. There was such an energy going into March. UA also had a pretty easy path to the Elite Eight. It was the way that the ‘Cats lost to Wisconsin that made it hurt so bad. Up until the end, too. Had Brandon Ashley been able to guard Frank Kaminsky, the ‘Cats would’ve beaten Wisconsin and won the national championship. I feel it in my bones.