The 2017-18 season is two weeks old, yet the second-ranked Arizona Wildcats already have two losses on their resume following a 66-60 defeat to the SMU Mustangs on Thursday at the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas.
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish put the Wildcats' start in perspective:
SMU 66, Arizona 60. So the second-ranked Wildcats are 3-2 with losses to the teams picked 12th in the ACC (NC State) and 4th in the AAC (SMU).
SMU prevailed despite shooting 31.4 percent from the field as a team. The Mustangs also hit just eight of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc. http://undertale.site
Arizona shot itself in the foot with 20 turnovers. The Wildcats also struggled from three-point territory, going 5-of-20.
In particular, Allonzo Trier lost his shooting touch for the second straight game. While the junior guard made a solid eight of his 16 field-goal attempts, he was 3-of-9 on three-pointers. He was 0-of-5 from deep in Arizona's 90-84 loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Wednesday.
Freshman forward Deandre Ayton had a big game in a losing effort, posting his fifth straight double-double (17 points, 15 rebounds).
Ben Emelogu II finished as SMU's leading scorer (20 points), while Shake Milton scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Jarrey Foster's performance shouldn't go overlooked either, as the junior guard did a little bit of everything. Foster had six points, six boards, five assists, two steals and four blocks.
Although the season is still young, Thursday's win could be big for SMU when it comes time to fill out the 68-team field for the NCAA tournament. Assuming the Mustangs are in a position to claim a tourney bid and didn't win the AAC tournament, a victory over the Wildcats could look impressive to the selection committee.
For Arizona, it will be important not to panic after dropping two games in a row. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein provided a reason for the Wildcats to remain optimistic about the rest of the year:
Arizona lost last night in a track meet and tonight in a grinder. Wildcats have flaws. One thing though that they don't have: Rawle Alkins. Important to remember.
Arizona closes out the Battle 4 Atlantis with a game against the No. 18 Purdue Boilermakers, who themselves have had a poor showing in the Bahamas:
Arizona vs. Purdue in the seventh-place game. Unexpected. Crazy that one will return from the Bahamas with three losses.
Beating Purdue wouldn't make fans forget about the defeats to NC State and SMU, but the Wildcats could at least end the tournament on a high note. Arizona also has a pair of Top 25 matchups ahead in December when it plays the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies and No. 25 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Still, head coach Sean Miller's critics have grown frustrated with the Wildcats' inability to reach the Final Four despite boasting plenty of talent recently. Expectations have never been higher in the Miller era, and a 3-2 start will only embolden those who argue he isn't the coach who can deliver a second national championship to the program.