For a team that hasn't been to the Final Four since 2001, the Arizona Wildcats have been knocking on the door plenty over the past decade. The Wildcats have lost in the NCAA Regional Final round three times since 2011, but this could be the year Arizona finally makes it back to the final weekend of March Madness. If the Wildcats can win the Pac-12 Tournament first, though, it will go a long way toward getting them back to where they want to be. For Arizona, that journey starts on Thursday night when they face the winner of Wednesday night's Colorado-Washington State matchup.
Regular season stats: 75.2 points per game scoring (126th of 351 NCAA Division I schools), 64.3 points per game allowed (28th of 351)
Conference record: 16-2 (T1st place)
Overall record: 27-4, .871 winning percentage (7th of 351)
Home record: 15-1
Road record: 9-1
Best win: Going into Pauley Pavilion and giving the UCLA Bruins what turns out to be their only home loss of the season is something special, and that's what Arizona did on January 21, beating the Bruins, 96-85. The Wildcats shot 50 percent from the floor while making 19-of-21 from the free-throw line. That was certainly a clutch performance on the biggest stage the Pac-12 Conference has to offer these days.
Worst loss: The only unranked team the Wildcats lost to this season was Butler, on neutral court the day after Thanksgiving, 69-65. The Bulldogs ended up finishing second in the Big East this year, so this was hardly a "bad" loss. It was a close game that could have gone either way, thanks to stellar defense from both squads. Arizona missed six free-throw attempts, however, and those always come back to haunt you in close games.
Best Player: With a couple of twin towers down low, the Wildcats have been very successful this year. Without the fabulous freshman forward from Finland, though, maybe Arizona isn't this good. Lauri Markkanen averages 15.2 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor—including a respectable 42.8 percent from three-point range. When he moves outside, the defense has to go with him, leaving the inside open for the other tower down low (junior center Dusan Ristic).
Pac-12 Tournament outlook: Arizona shouldn't have much trouble with either Colorado or Washington State on Thursday, but the entire nation will be watching if it's UCLA taking on the Wildcats on Friday night in Vegas. Arizona can win this tournament, and everyone knows it. The Wildcats defense against the Bruins offense is one of the best matchups in the Pac-12 to watch. However, UCLA may be more than Arizona can handle this week.
Tickets to Session 4, featuring the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins on Thursday night, can be purchased here.