Welcome to the best month of the year. Let's dive in.
Why you should stop worrying about offense and appreciate Arizona
I'm not sure why Arizona has been languishing, relatively speaking, at No. 7 in the polls, but I do know I don't buy it. Or more precisely, the Wildcats are far stronger than your average No. 7-ranked team in your average season.
Sean Miller's men have outscored the Pac-12 by 0.27 points per possession, the same margin by which Kentucky has outscored the SEC. Conversely, last season everyone seemed properly respectful of an Arizona team that was "just" (ha) 0.17 points better than the rest of the Pac-12 on each possession. That group of Wildcats was given a No. 1 seed and came within a single possession of the Final Four.
Miller justly enjoys a reputation for coaching exceptionally strong defensive teams, but one aspect of this particular Arizona team that likely hasn't been talked up enough is its ability to force turnovers. Pac-12 opponents have given the ball away on 21 percent of their possessions to the Wildcats. That's nowhere near the percentages posted by the likes of West Virginia (forcing turnovers on 26 percent of Big 12 opponents' possessions) or VCU (24 percent in A-10 play), but within the context of an Arizona defense that also protects the rim and is absolutely dominant on the glass, an opponent turnover rate of 21 percent is excellent.
True, on the other side of the ball I'm hearing it said that the worry with Arizona is whether this team can score enough. Well, not to be repetitious, but I'm not sure I buy that either. First and most fundamentally, you can't outscore a major conference by a huge, borderline historic margin like 0.27 points per trip without both your defense and your offense being excellent.