Despite being overshadowed by conference rivals like No.3 UCLA, Pac-12 analyst Casey Jacobsen thinks the University of Arizona Wildcats’ top players can go toe-to-toe with the Bruins, whom they play this Saturday in Los Angeles.
“The one thing about Arizona is they only go about six, seven guys,” Jacobsen said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Bickley and Marotta. “If they have another injury in the postseason that could hurt them, but their seven guys are as good, in my opinion, as UCLA’s seven guys.”
Ranked 14th, Arizona is 16-2 on the season, with five straight victories to begin Pac-12 play and a 10-game win streak overall. Their two losses came on neutral floors against Butler and Gonzaga early in the season, and that might be one reason the Wildcats aren’t as hot a topic.
“They’ve flown under the radar quite a bit this year because of a couple missteps in the non-conference and all the buzz about UCLA, but that’s a great place for them to be in,” Jacobsen said.
One of Arizona’s best weapons is a pair of starting seven-footers in Lauri Markkanen and Dusan Ristic. Markkanen, a freshman, may boast the more flashy name. He’s putting up 16.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 46.5 percent from deep.
Jacobsen, however, focused on the impact of Rustic. The Serbian junior is putting up 12 points and six boards per game. Jacobsen called him “probably the best back-to-the-basket player in all the Pac-12.”
“There’s so many coaches in the Pac-12 who would die for a player that they could throw the ball to on the block and say go get us a bucket,” Jacobsen said.
The Wildcats have only missed the NCAA Tournament twice since 1984. If they make the Final Four for the first time since 2001 this year, they will not have to travel far. Glendale will play host to the final three games of the tournament in March.
Fans in Tucson have gotten used to success, and despite not getting as much attention this year, they have at least one local analyst in Jacobsen who believes they “could absolutely make the Final Four.”