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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Miller’s coaching style could change next season

Rebecca Noble

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller bellows at his team during Arizona’s frustrating 85-78 Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin in the Staples Center in Los Angeles on April 1, 2015.

As successful as the last two seasons have been for Arizona men’s basketball, the Wildcats have failed to get over the hump when it mattered most, losing two straight Elite Eight matchups with Wisconsin.

In both the 64-63 overtime loss last season and the 85-78 loss this season, the Badgers and Wildcats had fairly similar talent. The difference was coaching.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has developed an offensive system that has proven to be effective over the latter portion of his 14-year tenure at the helm of the program. He’s fit in talented players to his system and made things work.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Ryan can coach defense, too. That may not have shown up in Wisconsin’s advanced defensive metrics this season, but it still is the case.

In terms of defensive coaching ability, Arizona coach Sean Miller is definitely one of the best defensive teachers in the nation. His pack-line style of defense has completely changed the trajectory of the Arizona program and has given the team a new identity.

Off the court, Miller is one of the nation’s best recruiters. He continues to stack top-10 recruiting classes, with his latest class standing at No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN.

For all the good that his defensive coaching and recruiting do, it feels like something is missing offensively.

Far too often, it seems as if Arizona players are forced to go one-on-one when set plays don’t work as planned, which, with some of the talented players Arizona has had under Miller, is fine at times. It’s troubling when done regularly, though.

That’s not to say Miller needs to develop a system as successful as Wisconsin’s or Kentucky’s overnight. There just has to be more attention to that end of the floor if the Wildcats are going to get to where they want to be.

While it’s easy to criticize Miller’s offensive coaching from a distance, it’s still important to see how far Arizona has come offensively over the past three or four seasons under Miller.

In the 2012 season, Arizona was ranked 86th overall in adjusted offensive efficiency, which is points scored per 100 possessions adjusted to opponent strength, by The Wildcats then ranked 10th in the 2013 season, 20th in 2014 and are ranked seventh in the latest 2015 rankings.

To go from 86th to seventh in just three seasons is a fantastic jump and isn’t really that unbelievable, considering how talented the Wildcats have been over the past couple seasons.

The point being, the sky isn’t falling down on Miller and his coaching staff. There is certainly an outstanding level of talent each year that puts Arizona among the nation’s best. All that’s needed is fine-tuning.

Just imagine if Arizona had a Wisconsin-level offense to go with its dominant defense. That combination would not only be deadly, it would likely bring home the program’s second National Championship — which, after all, is what the program desperately wants.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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