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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Sean Miller, Arizona happy with NCAA Tournament seed”

Sean Miller, Arizona happy with NCAA Tournament seed

The joys of Selection Sunday finally arrived for the Arizona men’s basketball team under second-year coach Sean Miller.

In fact, Arizona’s head coach was so grateful to be in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed, he didn’t even realize that Arizona’s road to the Sweet 16 leads to playing in the West Regional’s home of Ahaheim, Calif.

“”That’s the first I even realized that,”” Miller said at a press conference Sunday evening when asked about the advantages of possibly playing close to home. “”I’m not just saying that. I’m so focused on just that first game.””

Miller’s No. 5 seed Wildcats will take on the No. 12 seed Memphis Tigers and head coach Josh Pastner, a former Arizona player and eight-year assistant coach under Lute Olson. The tip is set for approximately 11:45 a.m. Tucson time Friday in Tulsa, Okla.

“”It’s not as if we’ve marched through the tournament here in recent years, under my direction,”” Miller said. ””So it’s just that focus of, ‘can we win one game and have a chance to play a second game?'””

“”We’re just so excited to be a part of the tournament,”” he added. “”A year ago I didn’t have a microphone here. I mean, we had to invent a press conference and what to say. Thinking about how far we’ve come from not being invited to the NIT … I’m so proud of our team.””

The Tigers (25-9) were hardly on many experts’ brackets after the regular season, but they defeated UTEP in the title game of the Conference USA Tournament to give them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Though they’re a No. 12 seed, Miller praised the depth in this year’s tournament as a whole.

As usual, he won’t hint at taking any opponent lightly.

“”I think they’re very young and talented, and get up and down the court with ease,”” Miller said. “”To me their defense is very good.

“”Anyone that we draw in this tournament is good, and Memphis is no exception.””

Coming off a three-game in three-days situation at the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament in Los Angeles, the Wildcats learned a valuable lesson in focus by losing to the Washington Huskies in the title game due to small mental breakdowns.

In effect, it was an important process — a mini-NCAA Tournament preview — for Miller’s youthful squad to go through.

“”It is uncharted territory,”” he said. “”We went through that a little bit in last night’s championship game, where in March it’s not only togetherness, it’s not only great effort, consistent play; it requires extreme concentration, especially at the end of games.

“”The littlest details that you don’t take care of, teams are too good, too well coached, have too much at stake … (and) the ball bounces the other way.””

With Washington guard Isaiah Thomas making two key assists in the final minute that led to Husky 3-pointers, the Wildcats let a four-point lead slip to put the game into overtime. And it was there where Thomas called off UW head coach Lorenzo Romar’s timeout in the final possession to drill a cold-blooded jumper over UA guard Momo Jones.

Miller thinks the harsh loss could be a blessing in disguise, at least giving his team one example of how little it takes to lose a hard-fought game.

“”Being in that pressure moment, I hope learning a lesson of being responsible up three, those are the lessons that will help us,”” Miller said. “”(It’s) growth inside of a program, growth for young players who get older. But I do believe the experience we just went through will help us.””

 

Check back to the Daily Wildcat this week for previews and NCAA Tournament coverage from Tulsa, Okla.

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