2007 Arizona Wildcats Basketball Preview
The Arizona Wildcats (20- 11 overall, 11- 7 Pac-10) tied for third in their league and were invited to the Big Dance for their 23rd year running. The team didn’t dance very long last season, as they were defeated by Purdue 72- 63 in round one of March Madness. Coach Lute Olson (589- 188 in 24 years with Arizona, 781- 280 in 34 years overall) certainly knows how to get the Wildcats to the conference tournaments.
In the conference, the team was first in points scored with 78.0 per game and first in assists with 16.2 per contest, great when you bet on college games. Rebounding was solid too as the Wildcats were plus-5.6, which was third in the Pac-10. Scoring defense was 72.5, ranking them ninth. That’s an area in which they must improve. Their .341 three-point shooting percentage is low, while their .750 free throw mark is solid.
Senior Kirk Walters and sophomore Jordan Hill (4.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 65.2 FG%) will start in the frontcourt. Walters is a defensive specialist, who did not play last season due to illness, while Hill will be the centerpiece of the Arizona inside game. Forward Chase Budinger (1.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 48.5 FG%), one of two returning starters, looks to be the club’s primary point producer and is sure to effect the college basketball point spreads. He’s a fine wing shooter and posses well-honed skills.
Point guard will be freshman Jerryd Bayless, who is thought to be the best high school player to ever take the court in Arizona. The expectations are that he will like other Wildcat greats at the point-- Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby and Damon Stoudamire—a fantastic playmaker and tough on court general. Jawann McClellan (9.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 40.9 FG%), who has spent a lot of time injured, looks to reach his potential in his senior year.
This team has lost a whole lot of scoring and rebounding. But they’ve certainly got the guys who can step in and step up. The fact is the Wildcats, although always in the post-season tourney, have recently had disappointing 20-win seasons. In 2004- 2005, the Cats won 30 games. But in the last two years, they’ve only earned 20 victories per season. Coach Olson needs to get the most out of his players to move up.