Arizona men's basketball claims 14th conference title with win over Cal
Bring on the March Madness. The Wildcats are coming.
In front of another packed house at the McKale Center in Tucson, the No. 5 Arizona men's basketball team claimed the 14th regular-season title in Pac-12/10 Conference history with a 99-60 shellacking of the visiting Cal Bears Thursday.
Midway through the second half, even with their team up by nearly 40, Wildcats fans stood on their feet in anticipation of another conference crown. Brandon Ashley led all scorers with 21 points, but it was point guard T.J. McConnell who was getting chants of "M-V-P!" as he dished out 11 assists along with his eight points on the evening.
But the senior was all business as he spoke to reporters after the game.
"It feels really good to repeat as Pac-12 regular season champs," McConnell said. "But we have Stanford coming in on Saturday. We can't overlook them. After that game if we take care of business, then we can be happy. But we've got to pay attention to Stanford first."
Safe to say, coach Sean Miller has restored a powerhouse profile to Arizona's program, carrying on the tradition established by legendary coach Lute Olson. The 'Cats are poised to make their third straight NCAA tournament appearance and fourth in five years, but first they'll have go through the gauntlet at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas next week.
Remarkably, it is the first time in 21 years that the Wildcats have repeated as conference champs.
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"I think it says how hard it is to do it," Miller said, adding that the team plans to cut the nets down on Saturday to celebrate. "A regular season championship – it encompasses 18 games, nine away, nine home. We obviously have a storied tradition with a lot of Pac-10/Pac-12 Championships. But you lose players from one year to the next. I think it's a testament to guys like T.J., Brandon, Caleb [Tarczewski], Gabe [York] – guys that have been here for two and three years."
While the Wildcats will be a No. 1 seed in Sin City, they still might have some work to do if they want impress the NCAA tournament selection committee and earn a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. But with a season sweep of Pac-12 nemisis Utah and other marquee victories over teams like Gonzaga and San Diego State, Arizona is poised to make a lot of noise in the postseason.