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September 28, 2009
Arizona has made 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the longest such current streak in the nation.
Despite turmoil the past two seasons, the Wildcats have kept the streak alive. For this season, the Wildcats have a new coach, need to replace their two leading scorers and have a number of newcomers who need to make an impact.
Will Arizona extend its tournament streak to 26 in a row?
We asked writers Mike Huguenin and Jason King to give us their thoughts.
MIKE HUGUENIN SAYS ...
I don't think so.
There are some positives for the Wildcats: Sean Miller is a solid coach, there's a nice recruiting class and -- perhaps most important -- the Pac-10 is going to be weaker than usual.
But I think the losses of Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill are going to be too much to overcome.
Nic Wise is the last of the Wildcats' "Big Three," but I don't think he will be nearly as effective without Budinger and Hill in the lineup. Wise is talented, yes, but he would've been No. 3 on opponents' "We must stop him" lists last season. Can he handle being the go-to guy?
There are five freshmen and five sophomores on the roster, meaning this obviously is an extremely young team. None of the sophomores were asked to do much last season, and they will need to greatly increase their production this season. All of the freshmen were go-to guys in high school, and some will need to sublimate their games for the good of the team; will they be able to do so?
In addition, the early season schedule is tough. The Wildcats won't have much time to jell; they'll need to be playing at a high level quickly. A schedule of this sort enables them to rack up some nice non-conference wins. The flipside, of course, is that a schedule of this sort means there could be a lot of early losses.
Ultimately, I think there will be too many early season losses for the Wildcats to continue their streak.
JASON KING SAYS ...
Not many people are expecting Arizona to make the 2010 NCAA tournament, but I think the Wildcats can do it.
Even though Sean Miller's squad lost its top two players in Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, Arizona still has one of the most clutch players in the Pac-10 in point guard Nic Wise.
Miller also did an outstanding job of assembling a solid recruiting class despite being hired the first week of April. Three of Arizona's newcomers are USC de-commits. Look for Solomon Hill to replace Budinger on the wing while Kyryl Natyazhko takes over for Jordan Hill in the post. Former role players such as Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg need to come up big for the Wildcats, too -- and I think they will.
The other thing is that the Pac-10 is going to be so bad this season that Arizona, despite its youth, will be able to beat a lot of teams who are going through rebuilding phases similar to the one that's taking place in Tucson.
It'll be a close call, but my money is on Arizona extending its streak.
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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