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Arizona Wildcats

Arizona Wildcats one of Jay Bilas' top title contenders

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) celebrates after the Wildcats defeated Michigan 72-70 in an NCAA college basketball game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Arizona Wildcats are 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country, so it stands to reason they would be viewed as one of the favorites to win the 2014 National Championship.

ESPN NCAA hoops analyst Jay Bilas, in an ESPN Insider piece, says they are exactly that.

Saying there are no great teams yet, there are eight he views as favorites to win it all, with the Wildcats coming in at the top.

The Wildcats are the most complete team The Bilastrator has seen, and have the size, athleticism, depth, lineup versatility, guard play, and mental and physical toughness to win the whole thing. And, this team can and will get better and better.

Where Arizona sets itself apart is on the glass. Sean Miller's team does a really good job of building a wall defensively and limiting opponents to one challenged shot. The Wildcats keep people off the foul line, and they rebound with length, great bounce and will. Opponents had better make their first shot, because there are few second ones. Aaron Gordon has gotten a lot of press, but his best contribution is as a defender and finisher. He can be one of the toughest individual defenders in the nation if he chooses to be.

But the difference between Arizona as a good team and Arizona as national champions rests with T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley. McConnell is a true point who is a terrific setup guy, Johnson is a hard-nosed scoring guard who is very efficient and Ashley is one of the tougher matchups in the country due to his length and versatility. Arizona won't hold on to the No. 1 ranking all season long, but may very well be the best team.

The Wildcats, in Sean Miller's fifth year as coach, already have quality wins at San Diego State and Michigan, while knocking off Duke on a neutral floor.

Nick Johnson leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game, while T.J. McConnell paces the team with 6.5 assists per contest and Aaron Gordon is pulling down 8.2 rebounds per game.

Coming up next for Arizona is a home game against Southern, which will be followed by a home tilt against Northern Arizona University.

The Wildcats will start Pac-12 play on Jan. 2 when they host the Washington State Cougars.

About the Author


School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.

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