The Arizona Wildcats’ hopes of winning the Pac-12 title outright and perhaps earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament were dealt a serious blow Saturday when they fell at home to the UCLA Bruins.
However, while the 77-72 defeat was disappointing and, to some, maybe surprising, losing to a team that was ranked fifth at the time and is now third does not mean the Wildcats are in any kind of trouble.
In fact, now they are probably about where they belong.
“They’re OK, they’re fine,” Pac-12 Networks and Fox Sports 1 analyst Casey Jacobsen told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “Arizona is not the fourth-best team in the country, though. They’re a top-10 team — fourth is a little much.”
Arizona was ranked fourth heading into Saturday’s game, but with the loss has now fallen to 7th in the AP Poll and 8th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Both UCLA and Oregon are ranked ahead of Arizona, who at 25-4 overall and 15-2 in the Pac-12 are likely to, with a victory Saturday against Arizona State, claim a share of the conference title while being the second seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.
In other words, all is not lost.
Still, while the Wildcats appear to be in good shape heading into the postseason, Jacobsen believes there are still some things they need to work on, specifically the reintegration of Allonzo Trier back into a prominent role.
The sophomore missed the first 19 games of the season due to an NCAA-mandated suspension for PED use, and is averaging 16.2 points in 30.5 minutes per game since his return. Trier’s 28 points in the loss to the Bruins were a career high.
“Everybody else seems to be — Allonzo was 11-for-14 in that game — Allonzo Trier is a stud, he is a phenomenal scorer,” Jacobsen said. “It seems like all the freshmen though have taken a step back to make room for Trier, like Kobi Simmons, he was non-existent in that game, he was up-and-down. Rawle Alkins had a couple of moments in there, but even Lauri Markkanen, who is playing better lately, those three freshmen were really affected over the last month on Allonzo Trier.”
Arizona remained one of the country’s best teams while Trier was out in large part because of the play of their talented freshmen. Markkanen is now second on the team in scoring, at 15.4 points per game, while Alkins is third with 11 and Simmons fifth at 10.3.
The trio combined for 15 points on 6-of-20 shots Saturday, and you have to figure Arizona will need more from them if a deep run into March Madness awaits.
“So if they can still work their way through that, I think Arizona has a shot at a Final Four,” Jacobsen said. “But they’re not the fourth-best team in the country.”
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