Marching to Vegas: Utah Visits Arizona With So Much on the Line

Posted by Adam Butler on January 16th, 2015

Effort is one of those intangible things that we scream about from the couch. It’s not really something you can quantify but it’s something everyone notices. It’s ugly when it’s not there and it’s endearing when it’s there without results. The desired confluence is when effort meets talent. [insert Wooden quote here]. Because when ‘good’ couples itself with ‘try’, anything is possible. Special happens. But when ‘try’ doesn’t align with the talent component, well, sometimes you lose to Oregon State and coach Sean Miller rails his Arizona team publicly and what we can only assume is privately. Practice was more than likely hellacious these past few days in Tucson.

Sean Miller Was Not All Smiles This Week

Sean Miller Was Not All Smiles This Week

Last night, those frustrations or adjustments manifested as the Wildcats beat a hobbled Colorado team. From that game’s “effort” I think we learned nothing. Colorado was missing their heart, soul, and able bodies. Dead men walking. Arizona did little more than take care of business at home. Effort, as it were, was incalculable and perhaps irrelevant in dismissing the Buffs to Tempe; a game, it would seem, for which Colorado is saving its bullets. Arizona held a 21-11 rebounding advantage at the half. Askia Booker converted to his alter ego, As-three-a Booker, to keep them in the game. But enough on Thursday night.

Because this Pac-12 season really comes down to Utah and Arizona. That’s Saturday. That’s our first top-10 match-up in this league since the beginning of the decade. And Utah is coming into it as the favorite. They’ve done nothing but roll Pac-12 opposition, executing their game to perfection. Make no mistake about it: Utah expects to win this basketball game. Because not only have they been terrific, Arizona’s effort has been questioned. We addressed this just as Sean Miller has. His team – even at this point in mid-January – is still trying to find itself. For a top-10 team that is 15-2, that’s quite a unique place. Saturday will be this team’s barometer.

If you subscribe to the idea that perhaps the Wildcats are not as good as advertised, this is our moment to find out. A season is not defined by a single game but when your coach questions your effort and the nation proclaims you have the most talented starting five in the country, then a visit from a top-10 team should be the perfect moment to demonstrate that confluence of effort and talent. It’s what Sean Miller came to Arizona to build. Not necessarily for mid-January basketball against Utah, but to take the best players in America and get them to play hard on both ends. One year ago, we saw what that looked like. We were deprived a full season of it (Ashley’s foot) and now we’ve perhaps held these Wildcats to a different standard. We expected these Cats to be those Cats and that’s unfair. On Saturday, I think we’ll see just what this Arizona team wants to be.

But they’re only half the determining equation. Those Utes we’ve just passively mentioned to this point in our column? They’re not a joke. No matter Saturday’s outcome, Utah is not a team that has simply stockpiled wins. They’ve destroyed people. Watch the way they fill a lane. From Poeltl and Bachynski to Wright and Tucker, Utah is a wonderfully balanced defensive juggernaut. The best part is that they’re good and they seem to respectfully know it. No swagger, an old school, head down and win mentality. Utah isn’t so much good at beating an opponent, as they’re just good at basketball. They’re executionally fantastic.

So Arizona has no excuses. They’ve publicly been called out for their effort. They’ve road the coattails of their talent to what you might call an inflated record. I think it’s indicative of a very good team. And on Saturday we should find out.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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