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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona’s identity is MIA

It was only a matter of time until the youth and inexperience caught up with them. The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team gave up its first loss of the season against the Providence Friars 69-65 in the John Wooden Legacy semifinals late Friday night.

Suddenly, the identity of Arizona men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller’s club looks as dismal as it’s been since he was trying to figure out how to babysit Josiah Turner in 2011, which was the last time the Wildcats lost in the month of November. This could be a hiccup or very well could be concerning losing this early in the season.

The opening stretch of games leading up until Christmas are usually the games that give not only the coaches, but the college basketball world in general a sense of where teams should be at amongst the rest in the nation.

Just by observing other teams that are ranked in the AP Top-25, Arizona is nowhere close to the brand name that Wildcat fans are used to seeing.

The Wildcats went down to the wire Thursday night with Santa Clara and escaped with an overtime victory, but left many scratching their heads. Jared Brownridge dropped 44 points on the UA and and shot 15-15 from the free throw line.

How can a squad like Santa Clara, who’s still trying to find their first win actually take one of the top programs in the country down to a nail biting situation?

One excuse could be the Turkey digesting in their stomachs, considering it was a late night game on Thanksgiving. Another excuse could be that Arizona’s ego is showing at the wrong time according to Miller.

“Last night with our first victory, we put ourselves in this position here tonight,” Miller said. “I think it’s a reminder sometimes for us you know that things have been rolling over the last couple of years you know you lose one and it’s a different feeling because we haven’t lost one of these in a long, long time.”

Miller further rallied behind the idea that this team just might not be as ready as many may have thought for the big stage.

“I’ve never felt worst with a win last night,” Miller said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Santa Clara because they did an outstanding job, but after we watched the film a number of times, it became apparent for whatever reason, we showed up last night thinking we were much better than we were.”

In a Thanksgiving weekend tournament, the Wildcats served turnovers and ended Friday’s matchup with 21 total turnovers. It doesn’t matter whom Arizona plays this season, committing an absurd amount of turnovers will most likely result in a loss or an ugly win.

Last season Miller didn’t have to worry about the turnover ratio with T.J. McConnell handling the ball.

Essentially, the point guard scenario between the combo guard in Kadeem Allen and the undersized Parker Jackson-Cartwright likely won’t help the assist to turnover ratio.

Despite Kaleb Tarczewski being out with an ankle injury, Ryan Anderson muscling 27 points against Providence and Arizona outrebounding the Friars 43-22, the Wildcats couldn’t come out on top. Even when the Wildcats shine bright in other areas, the result is still a loss.

“Kaleb hasn’t lost many games at Arizona and there’s a reason,” Miller said. “You can’t judge him on his statistics. His physicality, his presence, his ability to be at the right place at the right time constantly at the end of games. He’s been there and done it so many times of course we missed him.”

Miller further harped on how much injuries have affected his team in the very early season.

“We’ve played without Elliott Pitts for a game, we’ve played without Ryan and Kaleb here, so we’ve missed three guys in a game in the first six,” Miller said.

The panic button for the season is in sight, but this is the adversity Arizona has to go through to develop the chemistry and offensive cohesiveness that will benefit them in March.

A roster doused with NBA talent last season surprisingly lost to UNLV days before Christmas, so maybe this year’s squad can hit full strive at the right time.

“I leave this game feeling very, very good about our team’s effort and where we can grow and become,” Miller said.

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