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December 11, 2006
Best yet to come for Wildcats
Arizona is 7-1 right now and playing good basketball - good enough that the team should undoubtedly be in the Top 10. However, as good as the Wildcats are now, should they progress as expected, it's nothing compared to what this team will look like by the end of the season.
You can touch on any number of issues as to why Arizona should make continuous and significant improvement as the season goes on, but we'll start with defense. Arizona was an atrocious defensive team to start the season and eight games in the Wildcats are now, at the very least, respectable.
When you consider the talent and work ethic that the starting five possesses, should they continue to focus and work hard on the other side of the court, there's no reason why Arizona can't be a team that is tough to score on by the time the NCAA Tournament comes along.
Also important is that while there's no doubting how good this team is offensively right now, the best is definitely yet to come. McClellan has played 10 games in two years and Budinger is still getting accustomed to the college level.
Furthermore, Shakur is still learning to become a pass-first player while also making his mark by hitting big shots for the Wildcats. Williams, like Shakur, is also transforming his game from what was once completely shoot-first but now he's learning how to get his teammates involved as well.
For Radenovic, the only hope is that he keeps up his play because he's done just about everything anyone could ask of him thus far.
Heading into Pac-10 play, it's going to be important for Arizona to continue to get productive minutes from its bench. Lately, the bench has definitely been playing well and that needs to continue for the Wildcats to meet their potential.
Nic Wise appears to be gaining confidence and if he can not only back up Shakur but also improve the team when he's on the court, it will make the Wildcats that much better.
Kirk Walters is now back from being sidelined with mononucleosis and he is someone that should keep improving each game. Hopefully Walters' presence won't completely knock center Jordan Hill out of the rotation, but the freshman has played sparingly as of late and while he's looked good in practice, hasn't shown what he's capable of in games.
Add in consistency from Daniel Dillon and Bret Brielmaier and as the season moves forward, Arizona should have a legitimate bench, which is certainly more than someone could say just a couple of weeks ago.
On top of everything else, we haven't seen close to the highest level of play that this team is capable of. Usually it's two or three Wildcats having big games at a time, which is usually enough to carry the team. Imagine what Arizona would look like if all five starters played well in the same game.
While Arizona is good now, the best is definitely yet to come. If this team continues to improve like it should from now until the end of the season, it's scary to think how good the Wildcats could be by March.