That the Arizona Wildcats won 23 games this season with what they had is a testament to head coach Sean Miller's ability to get the most of his players.
That they came one missed shot against Colorado and a devastating loss in Tempe to ASU from a berth in NCAA March Madness is fairly remarkable.
This comes to mind after watching a few minutes (on tape, thankfully) of the Cats' 65-54 home loss to Bucknell last night in a first-round National Invitational Tournament game.
Arizona looked as if they'd rather have been watching the NCAA's "First Four In" games than running up and down the floor at McKale Center against a so-called "mid-major" team that looked as if it could compete (and beat) against any of this year's Pac-12 programs.
Let's put it this way: Bucknell really wanted to win the game, and Arizona didn't.
Seeing injured swingman Kevin Parrom (very nice kid who has had a brutally tough run in the last several months what with his mom dying and getting shot in the leg) and onetime starting guard Josiah Turner (all but kicked out of the program) on the bench spoke volumes about the team's utter lack of depth.
The departing seniors, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Jesse Perry all did some great things this season, and will be missed. But the "experts" have been saying that Arizona's incoming recruiting class will be among the nation's best, and the new guys will be expected to jump right in and contribute.
Coach Miller looks top-drawer to us, and next season, when it will be all of his players for the first time--all of his own recruits--it truly will become his program.
Look for the Cats to be ranked in the top three Pac-12 teams before things get going, and ASU much lower.
But remember this: Colorado, which won the post-season tourney and is in the NCAAs, was picked to finish 10th before this season.