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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Basketball notes: Arizona keeps focus on California

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Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat

Arizona clinched a share of the regular season Pac-12 Conference title with its win at Utah and has a chance to clinch the outright regular season title on Thursday against California. The Wildcats just need to win one of their two games this week, and they’ll be the conference champs. 

However, with the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA tournament looming large over the next couple weeks, Miller said the Wildcats can’t afford to overlook Cal or Stanford in favor of looking for a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

“If we start thinking in those terms, you get away maybe from what’s the most important,” Miller said. “That is, we have two games at home, we’re preparing for Cal on Thursday night. If we get too far ahead of ourselves beyond Cal on Thursday night, we’re not going to play well. Next thing you know, you’re running into a situation that maybe you otherwise could have avoided.” 

Miller added that anyone in the conference can beat the Wildcats on any given night, and that the team can’t afford a lapse in concentration. 

“Everybody in our conference can beat us,” Miller said. “We’ve, I think, proven that.”

The rise of Zeus 

Once the butt of most Wildcat-related jokes, Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski has completely turned his season around over the past six games. Tarczewski has been the rebounding and defensive force that Arizona expected him to be and even added in timely and consistent offensive performances. 

Tarczewski’s recent hot streak has brought confidence back to his game and reiterated his importance to the team as the season progresses, Miller said.  

“Everybody is on board now with Kaleb because he’s scoring more and he’s catching the ball and doing a lot of things that I think anybody who’s a fan can see,” Miller said. “The things that Kaleb does within the game, really his whole career, has been that he’s in the right position on defense just about every possession. He’s big, he’s mobile and he’s really smart.” 

Looking forward, a dominant Kaleb Tarczewski would do wonders for Arizona’s chances for its second National Championship. 

Miller sees self in T.J.

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller sees a lot of himself in his point guard, T.J. McConnell. 

Miller, who played point guard at Pittsburgh during the late 1980s and early 1990s, exhibited much of the same qualities that McConnell exhibits today. Miller went as far as saying McConnell does certain things better than he ever did.

“Some things, yes,” Miller said. “There are a lot of things that he does much, much better than me. His defense, we talked about this numerous times before he ever played here. His freshman year and in his sophomore year at Duquesne, he was third in the nation in steals over a 70-game period of time. That shows you how he plays.” 

By being a premier player on the best team in the conference, McConnell is on the fast track to becoming Arizona’s second-consecutive Pac-12 Player of the Year. 

As McConnell has said multiple times, he doesn’t care about individual awards, as long as the team continues its winning ways. Miller agreed with that sentiment; he said that the coaches usually pick the best player from the best team as the winner. 

“Our coaches pretty much operate from the standpoint of whoever the champion is — or certainly that’s had a great year — deserves the individual accolades, and I’m sure that won’t change,” Miller said.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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