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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: Enjoy the segue season

Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

University of Arizona meets Washington University in an NCAA mens basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2010. Arizona up 37-27 at the half.
Michael Ignatov
Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona meets Washington University in an NCAA men’s basketball game at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2010. Arizona up 37-27 at the half.

It’s a segue season.

Go no further than the McKale Center team introduction video for the Arizona men’s basketball team as evidence.

It begins with highlights of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, four Final Fours and the 1997 National Championship. It then stops, switching to a bass-heavy beat of the year 2010 and cut-ups of the new-era Wildcats — Sean Miller’s Wildcats.

Finally, the new head coach’s culture has arrived. Hopefully, fans will forget the backward-visioned, “”keep The Streak alive”” talk and will instead salivate by focusing on the future Wildcats.

An impressive 74-60 victory against the Oregon Ducks in Eugene, Ore., could make that change a lot easier, despite the team’s perfectly average record (9-9, 3-3 Pacific 10 Conference).

“”I felt like we competed at a higher level,”” Miller told The Associated Press. “”The starting point of our game, the way we came out, the effort defensively, our rebounding against a very good rebounding team speaks to that effort.””

Will the Wildcats show up every game from here on out? Probably not.

Will that 25-year NCAA streak stay alive? Better bet against it.

But it’s a segue season.

The young Wildcats — the team has given an unheard-of 45 percent of its 3,700 minutes played to five key freshmen — have not missed a step in reaching their simple goal of improving through each practice and each game.

That youth could have been the main factor in some key losses, such as the 4:10 scoreless period to end Thursday’s game against Oregon State. The Beavers clawed back and, with the game tied at 64 apiece, OSU guard Lathen Wallace hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send the Wildcats out of Corvallis, Ore. in yet another close and painful loss.

Arizona turned to resiliency for the third straight conference weekend. In all three cases, the Wildcats won their second weekend game after dropping the first.

Against the Ducks, freshman forward Derrick Williams, who has accounted for 480 of the 1,647 minutes played by the team’s freshmen five, recorded 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead Arizona in a game in which it never trailed.

“”After the loss (to Oregon State), Coach got on me a little bit,”” Williams told the Associated Press. “”He just told me to pick it up a little bit. I need to play a little bit better for us to win, so that’s what I did today.””

Talk about learning on the fly.

Miller has had little choice but to play a bevy of underclassmen along with lone senior Nic Wise. In doing so, the future pay-off — thanks to a nationally ranked top-10 non-conference schedule leading into a weak Pac-10 lineup — will be tremendous.

If he gives them turmoil, throws them into the fire and coaches them to overcome the obstacles, Miller will soon have a young team on paper but not in experience.

Such are the hidden gems of the segue season, only if the importance of wins and losses is overlooked.

That’s because it should be overlooked.

Enjoy the new team, enjoy the maturation of young athletes and envision the future rather than wish for the good ol’ days.

After all, that’s what the history books are for.

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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