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The Buchanan Report

Basketball season wrap, a look ahead, and Pre-Season Contest Winner Announced

Fairwell Mark Lyons. You were good.

How much cheesecake can you buy for $100? I have no idea, but one of our skilled prognosticators is poised to find out because the winner of our season-long basketball prediction contest has chosen a gift card from The Cheesecake Factory. We'll get to that in a minute, but let's collectively reflect for a moment on the season that was.

Arizona steamrolled through the non-conference slate, and began Pac 12 play looking every bit as though it would power its way to a season for the ages with conference play looking like it would be nothing more than a formality.

Retrospectively, there is the temptation to look at Arizona's 2012-2013 season like one of those prom dates you may have had in the past. You know what I'm talking about; the girl you were kind of intimidated to ask out because she was really pretty. You wonder if she will even go out with you, and then you arrive at the front door to pick her up and she has some weird hair style you've never seen before. Her hair is piled all on top of her head, and you work hard to hide the look of bewilderment on your face. "Wow," you think, "her ears really stick out." "I had no idea I was taking Marie Antoinette out on a date." She's still pretty, but now you're noticing things that weren't apparent before.

In fact, Arizona, was always a good team that incorporated many new faces into Sean Miller's system, all of us had really high expectations, just like our prom date, but in the end and despite some mild disappointments (or awkward surprises) you were still really proud to be around her. Arizona finished with six losses in league play, one more than conference regular season champion UCLA. As tough as the six conference losses were to swallow, two came to the Bruins.

A third loss to UCLA came during the conference tournament in Las Vegas. After avenging an earlier loss to Colorado by downing the Buffaloes in quarterfinals action, the Wildcats fell to UCLA 66-64 in the semis. The fallout from that game proved so much bigger in the weeks following. For example, the now famous Sean Miller technical with 4:47 remaining in the semifinal game became the controversy the turned the college basketball world upside down this past week, ending with the resignation of Pac-12 head official Ed Rush on Thursday.

The sweet 16 game against Ohio State University was certainly an example of both the highs and the lows of Arizona's season. Arizona dominated the first two-thirds of the first half, allowed OSU to get back into the game at the end of the first half and the first-third of the second half before fighting back with a will and tenacity that made every Arizona fan proud, and in the end, Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons combined on a great play to tie the game. Unfortunately, OSU’s Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross combined on an equally great play that ended in a game-winning three-point basket with just 2.1 seconds remaining. Game over. Season over.

Mark Lyons deserves props for his leadership, his clutch play, and if only for year, becoming a true Wildcat. Lyons proved he belonged in an Arizona uniform, if for nothing else than his fighting spirit. With the game on the line, you wanted him with the ball in his hands. You wanted him on the line to shoot the 'must have' foul shots. He delivered time and again, including the free throw that capped a game-tying three point play against Ohio State in the Sweet 16 with 21 ticks left in regulation.

It took a great play by the Buckeyes in the last game of the season to beat Arizona and bring its 2012-13 campaign to a close. That's fitting. Great job and a fun team to watch and develop.

Next year? Freshmen Kaleb Tarzcewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley become sophomores. Nick Johnson finds a shot. T.J. McConnell directs and leads an offense and a huge advantage he will have over Mark Lyons is that he has been in the system practicing for a year, and Aaron Gordon arrives as the most heralded, hotly recruited Arizona player possibly ever. What's not to like?

Wildcat Sports Report writers Gary Randazzo and Brad Allis have documented Arizona's recruiting success over the past year, so there's no need to repeat it now. Let's just say this; 2013's mirage (if you can call it that) will be next year's reality.

Arizona loses stellar seniors Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons and possibly Kevin Parrom, but won't lose a step with the development of everyone else on the roster. Despite the losses the Wildcats will realize huge gains in overall size, strength and quickness. Right now it's all potential, but the 2013-2014 season is undoubtedly filled with plenty of promise.

And now to the task at hand, congratulating this year's pre-season contest prediction winner. A golf clap, if you will, for one of WSR's most highly respected posters . . . Ashton!

Enjoy your gift card to the restaurant that has every conceivable salad, entree and dessert on the menu.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s contest. Good luck in 2013-2014!

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