It’s safe to say they passed with flying colors.
With the Oregon Ducks slipping in the conference due to two straight losses — mostly because of the foot injury to star guard Dominic Artis — and the Wildcats (20-2, 8-2 PAC 12) winning against Stanford Wednesday night, Arizona has gained sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Heading into this week, it was obvious Arizona would have the toughest time with the Bay Area tandem of Stanford and Cal before the PAC-12 tournament began. With their 73-66 win over the Cardinal, however, the Wildcats will be able to fend off Oregon until the tournament begins.
The will of Arizona seniors Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill shined bright in the second half against the Cardinal, while the rest of the Wildcats squad struggled. Lyons scored a season-high 25 points, while Hill, possibly the PAC-12 Player of the Year, added 23 points. Both Hill and Lyons have shown their ability to exhibit the “killer instinct” late in games, allowing Arizona to come back from deficits all season long.
Not only does Arizona possess the most complete, top-to-bottom lineup in the PAC-12, but they are also backed by the most energetic and supportive fan base. The Wildcats are truly most deserving of the PAC-12 title this season, and their reward will begin with the No. 1 seed.
Arizona faces two final trap games in Los Angeles heading into the final two weeks of the season against USC and UCLA. On Jan. 24, the Wildcats suffered their second loss of the season to UCLA in an 11-point defeat, while they followed up with a 24-point win over USC just two days later. By that point in the season, there will be little chance of stopping Arizona, and Oregon may slip behind even more with a loss against a gritty Stanford team.
The Wildcats may not have blazed through conference play fashionably, but the fact is, no one has in the PAC-12 this season. With Oregon struggling to regain their midseason form, Arizona will have no problem securing the top seed heading into conference play.