1. With Oregon dropping two games in conference play, the door is open for Arizona to win the conference (although Oregon still owns the tie-breaker). What record rest of the way, do you think the Wildcats need to have to win the conference?
Arizona Desert Swarm: UCLA and Oregon have pretty favorable schedules to finish off the season. Arizona I think can only loss a couple more games this season to win the conference outright so I'd say they must go 7-2 down the stretch. And considering the Wildcats have Colorado at home, and then finish off the season at UCLA and against a surprisingly good ASU team in Tucson, they can't lose two heading into the final two games of the year. I can't see them winning both of those.
2. With the expansion to the Pac-12, Cal and Arizona only play once an year in the regular season. Without a true round robin, is the prestige diminished for winning the conference regular season?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Only a little bit. I think you could argue that much more regarding the football season (for example, a tight Pac-12 South saw Arizona play Stanford and Oregon while UCLA and ASU didn't have to play both). I think there's enough games in the hoops season to make it pretty fair.
3. Arizona's success this year can be largely attributed to this highly touted recruiting class. Who is the best freshman of the bunch and how many of them would still be around next season?
Arizona Desert Swarm: At this point, it looks like all three of them will be around for next season. And quite honestly, it's been hard to say who is the best of the three. Each one of Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski have had their ups and downs so far. If I had to choose though, I'd say Tarczewski. The center is the most polished and has the most defined game at this point as a true back-to-the-basket guy. He's tough inside although sometimes a little on the soft side simply because, well, he's a freshman. Ashley has a very Derrick Williams-like game but is inconsistent, and while Jerrett is the most raw, he has most recently come on as a lanky shot-blocker off the bench.
4. In the controversial win over Colorado, was that apparently shot made by Colorado at the end of regulation really too late or did the refs yielded to the Arizona home crowd's will?
Arizona Desert Swarm: I wrote a couple things on this and honestly believe the refs' monitor was too crappy for them to see if the shot was good or not. It really was damn close. Honestly, I've yet to see anything definitive, but I think being completely objective as a fan you'd have to give Colorado that shot. That said, it's hard to prove that Sabatino Chen had his fingers on the ball, and the other result was hard to prove as well. If anything, I think the refs yielded to human nature in letting the teams play it out in overtime. Obviously, Arizona being at home and having made a late-game comeback gave them a huge advantage.
5. Can/should the Wildcats get a number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Honestly, I'm sort of in the camp that would say they should at this point, but I think the questions surrounding the Pac-12 as a whole will keep them out. That seems fair. Still, the Wildcats have a top-four RPI and I think are in the same discussion in a very muddled field this season. Indiana, Michigan, Duke, Florida and Kansas all kind of belong in the same grouping -- the Wildcats belong there too, in my opinion.
6. Arizona currently runs about a 8 person rotation (only 8 guys averaging more than 10 minutes a game). Is this team deep enough to make a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament and the NCAA tournament?
Arizona Desert Swarm: You know, I think they are. Sean Miller has been trying harder the past two weeks to go deeper into his bench, but this season it's hard to considering there's a group of guys notably better than the bench unit. In the past, the talent has been more evenly spread. Angelo Chol, a big man who played a lot as a freshman last year, has been out of the main rotations because of the young freshmen bigs, and freshman guard Gabe York has recently entered the conversation to see if he can add another dimension to the team.
Mark Lyons after #8 Arizona win at Washington (via ArizonaAthletics)
7. Who is your #1 player on offense? How would you characterize your offense?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Point guard Mark Lyons is the best pure scorer, but senior Solomon Hill has really been a catalyst. He is a playmaker with the pass but can also attack the rim or shoot the three-pointer.
And it's hard to characterize the offense at this point. That sounds bad halfway through the season, and maybe it'll end up dooming Arizona eventually. Lyons, a transfer from Xavier, has shown no ability to run the offense and is a hit-or-miss chucker. Sometimes the ball movement suffers without a pure point, but Miller this past weekend began toying with off-guard Nick Johnson running more point along with backups York and Jordin Mayes.
8. Who is your #1 player on D. What type of D do you like to play?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Miller is purely a man-to-man guy. I think he literally played a zone for one play, for the first time this season, last week. The perimeter guys really like to pressure the ball high above the three-point line, and with the freshmen big men, the help defense is very good if ball-handlers get by their men.
9. What is the team strength?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Defense. Even when the Arizona offense struggles, which is often, the defense has kept the Wildcats in every game this season. Arizona has been nonchalant for many games this year, but when the defense is on, it's hard to see them losing.
10. What are the weaknesses of the team?
Arizona Desert Swarm: A sense of urgency. Arizona has been in so many close games this year to opponents good and bad because they don't turn on the urgency until late-game situations. And on offense, again, the lack of a pure point guard has hurt Arizona quite a bit at points this year.
11. What do you need to do to win the game?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Arizona needs to force the Cal backcourt to work for every shot. With their talent, Cobbs and Crabbe will probably get theirs, but the Wildcats must make them work for their shots. If it comes down to a tired backcourt making plays down the stretch -- when the UA defense tightens up -- then the Wildcats will be in pretty good shape.
12. What does Cal do in order to beat you?
Arizona Desert Swarm: Cal needs to find a way to be a better three-point shooting team than they've been this year. That means the Golden Bears must spread the floor and put Arizona defenders on islands. That will lead to shots or penetration and kickouts to three-point shooters, something that the Wildcats have struggled to defend in their losses. Cal also must at least keep the Wildcats off the offensive boards and maybe even get a few themselves if they want to have a shot at winning.