We can dream right? About national championships and Heisman trophies, about glitzy football facilities and a new-look Hillebrand Stadium.
What is sports fandom if not hope in the future? If you didn’t want, you wouldn’t care.
So why don’t we look ahead to 2019, and all it — possibly – has to offer.
Behind anonymous roster, Arizona basketball bounces back
Entering Pac-12 play at 9-4, a half-game behind Arizona State and Colorado, the Arizona men’s basketball team is primed to make a run at another conference title. With the Pac-12 down this season, the no-name Wildcats have at least a good shot to surprise, even after being written off this season in the face of national scandal.
And wouldn’t that be fitting for Sean Miller and Co.? With a roster devoid of top-10 talent, perhaps Miller can summon the feistiness that defined his early run at Arizona and reel off an upset or two in the NCAA Tournament.
That, combined with a recruiting class that ranks among the country’s best coming in, would certainly turn the tide on the Arizona-is-down-and-out narrative.
And, look, a year after losing in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament with the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick on his team, any postseason success would help begin to redeem Miller.
Wildcats go bowling for first time under Sumlin
Kevin Sumlin’s hire at Arizona didn’t exactly result in the fanfare the school thought it would. And a 5-7 mark in his first year at the helm didn’t exactly portend for great things to come, especially after a Territorial Cup collapse that ended costing the Wildcats the postseason.
But hope begins anew in 2019, when Arizona welcomes back several starters, including star quarterback Khalil Tate. A healthy Tate, combined with some maturation on the defense, should be good enough to get the Wildcats bowling next season, and in an upside-down Pac-12 South, they might even be good enough to win it.
Of course, the Rose Bowl wouldn’t take place until 2020, but we can fudge it a bit, right?
Tate rebounds, enters Heisman conversation
In mid-August, the buzz around Tate, the Wildcats do-everything quarterback, reached a fever pitch when he adorned one of four regional covers of the Sports Illustrated college football preview. Coming off a sophomore campaign in which he threw for 1,591 yards and 14 scores and rushed for another 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns, the hype around Tate was real.
Pairing him with the head coach who helped Johnny Manziel lift the hardware in Manhattan’s Downtown Athletic Club? A no-brainer, right?
Well Tate battled lower-body injuries all season and finished with 224 rushing yards and two scores, even if his passing numbers did take a tick up to 2,530 yards and 26 touchdowns.
In 2019, if he puts it all together — say 3,000 yards and 30 passing touchdowns, plus 1,200 rushing yards and another 10 scores — well maybe that Heisman invitation will be delayed a year.
Arizona softball returns to WCWS
Hillenbrand Stadium, home of so many of the pivotal moments in Arizona softball history, is getting a much-needed facelift. Can it bring some postseason success along with the new digs?
Arizona hasn’t reached the Women’s College World Series since 2010, an almost unthinkable drought for one of the best collegiate programs in the country, regardless of the sport. With a more comfortable — and cooler — home, maybe this is the year Mike Candrea and Co. get back.
“I’m excited that, No. 1, we’re finally going to get a chance to do a remodel,” Candrea said when the renovation was announced back in May. “It’s very well-needed. On the other hand, I’m very sad to see old Hillenbrand go because it’s been so good to us.”
Football keeps up with the Joneses
Speaking of facelifts: In the sweltering Tucson heat, nothing can scare a recruit away faster than imagining sweating under the constant beat of a brutal sun.
Now, with the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center scheduled to be completed in January — fit with an indoor football practice field — Arizona takes a huge leap into the 21st century.
Located on the former site of Kindall Stadium, the building will include a 90-yard football field.
Arizona Bowl announces new conference partner
The Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl is off to a fine start as bowl games go, with attendance above 32,000 each of the last three years, and a pair of exciting overtime thrillers the last two years.
But after three seasons of matchups between Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference opponents, the MWC is expected to get a new rival this year, as the bowl committee is expected to announce a new tie-in.
Salpointe again makes bid for championship
After back-to-back losses in the state championship game to Scottsdale Saguaro — the Sabercats’ sixth straight state title — will 2019 be the year for the Salpointe Lancers?
The Lancers will certainly have a shot.
Salpointe loses one stud running back in Mario Padilla but returns all-everything Bijan Robinson, and he could be enough to get them over the hump next year.
Mr. Robinson takes stage
The aforementioned Robinson might be Tucson’s top recruit of all time. Fielding offers from Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and a host of the biggest programs in the country, the soon-to-be Salpointe senior must have one friendly mail carrier.
Robinson’s choice of colleges will be one of the things to watch in Tucson in 2019. The Wildcats will be sure to make a strong push for the hulking 6-foot, 200-pound back, but he could end up among the nation’s elite, and making a big difference, in a hurry.
Arizona baseball returns to glory
The Arizona baseball team has fallen on tough times under Jay Johnson, who helped lift the Wildcats to a runner-up finish in the 2016 College World Series. In the two years since, he has won 38 and 34 games, falling to sixth in the Pac-12 last season after 13 one-run losses.
But with a loaded lineup, a fine recruiting class and more seasoned pitching expected this season, the Wildcats should be on the upswing, and at the very least, a playoff appearance is expected.
Sugar Skulls make debut
With former NFL defensive back Marcus Coleman at the helm, the Tucson Sugar Skulls Indoor Football League squad is set to make its debut in February.
For a town with limited sports excitement during spring and summer, the franchise will be a welcomed addition, joining teams in San Diego, Phoenix and several in the Midwest.
If the team gets off to a good start, much like the Tucson Roadrunners, they could become a thing in Tucson, and quick.