Members of the Arizona Wildcats had a saying they liked to use on Twitter this season, especially after wins.
While fun, the phrase is technically incorrect. The Wildcats did leave, so to speak, and their time away changed a fan base that was used to expectations, deep tournament runs and NBA-level talent wearing the red, white and blue.
Never has this been more evident than Sunday afternoon when, not long after the clock reached 0:00 with the Wildcats ahead of the Longhorns 70-69 and heading for the Sweet 16, concerns were brought to my attention.
No, I’m not talking about the five seconds call, iffy fouls or whether or not Arizona actually has a chance to beat Duke. Those would be legitimate and are definitely worth talking about.
Surprisingly – and maybe even disappointingly — the conversation among Arizona fans quickly turned to “Oh no, with the way he’s playing Derrick Williams is for sure heading for the NBA after this season.”
Let me remind you all, my fellow Wildcats faithful, that this is a great problem to have. Derrick Williams has averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two NCAA Tournament games, coming up huge in clutch situations and further solidifying his status as one of the all-time Arizona greats.
Without Derrick Williams Arizona most definitely would not be on the precipice of the Elite Eight. In fact, without him the team would have been hard pressed to even make it to the Dance, let alone win the Pac-10. But the inherent risk to having quality players and coaches is that they will always be desired by someone else, and in this case the only thing that will stop Williams from turning pro is Williams himself.
Of course, the common refrain seems to be that all of a sudden Williams’ strong play in the tournament means he’s more likely to call it a career at Arizona. Well, he was a top five pick before the tournament and I don’t think anything that has happened or can happen will change that. However, isn’t it possible that a deep tournament run ending in anything but a championship could make a guy like Williams, who has a desire to win and enjoys his teammates, want to stick around for one more season, one final chance? Is that being too much of a homer? I’m not sure.