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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona faces somewhat familiar foe in first NCAA tournament game

Arizona+faces+somewhat+familiar+foe+in+first+NCAA+tournament+game
Kyle Hansen

Just after their road trip to UTEP, Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller was looking for something to do and he caught a glimpse of the future.

Miller saw Texas Southern upset Michigan State 71-64 on the road on December 20.

“If you win at Michigan State, you don’t have to say anything more,” Miller said. “You’re a dangerous team, a very well-coached team and [TSU coach] Mike Davis did an unbelievable job coaching at the places he’s been, including a national championship himself at Indiana.”

The second seeded Wildcats (31-3) will face No. 15 seed Texas Southern (22-12,16-2 SWAC) on Thursday at 11:10 a.m. MST on TNT in the second round of the West Region of the NCAA tournament in Portland, Ore.

“We’re excited to be a two seed and being in the footprint of the Pac-12 in Portland,” Miller said. “We know that’s a fantastic arena, coach [Damon] Stoudamire knows that arena very well. We’re excited about moving to the next chapter, one that you seemingly talk about forever and the reality of it is that you’re here and it’s upon you very fast.”

Stoudamire played for the Portland Trail Blazers for eight seasons in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

This is Arizona’s 32nd NCAA Tournament appearance. The Wildcats are 51-30 all-time in the Big Dance, with 16 Sweet 16 appearances, 10 Elite Eight runs, four Final Fours and the 1997 national championship.

Miller has led Arizona to four NCAA tournaments in six years and to three Sweet 16s and two Elite Eights.

“We’re very, very excited to be part of the tournament, it’s not easy,” Miller said. “You look at some of the teams that aren’t a part of this year’s NCAA tournament, including the champion from a year ago, it just shows how much college basketball has changed. You lose so many young players, there’s so much parity across the board that from one year to the next, it can be amazing swings.”

Arizona is a top-two seed in the tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001. The Wildcats are 12-5 all-time as a No. 2 seed, including finishing second in 2001.

While Arizona was considered a finalist for a No. 1 seed, Miller said the Wildcats aren’t disappointed to not get on the top line.

“The four one seeds are very deserving,” Miller said. “As a matter of fact, you could have made the argument that maybe six or seven teams could have been that, but I think the ones that were given the one seed clearly deserved it, their quality of play speaks for itself and I think for the two seeds the quality of play speaks for itself as well; and I’m happy to be one of them.”

In addition to beating Michigan State, Texas Southern, who won both the SWAC’s championships, also beat Kansas State on the road 58-56. Arizona narrowly beat KSU 72-68 en route to the Maui Invitational championship.

“We’ve played Kansas State, we recognize who they are and we have to be ready on Thursday for a team that is very capable of advancing,” Miller said.

TSU guard Madarious Gibbs, the SWAC Player of the Year, averages 14.2 points and 4.3 assists per game to lead the Tigers. TSU also features forward Chris Thomas, a one time Arizona recruit.

“He got off track and seems like he really got back on track right now but he was a top 100 player, maybe even higher at one point, coming out of high school,” Miller said.

Also in the NCAA field is Dayton, led by former UA assistant coach and Sean Miller’s brother, Archie Miller.

“Arch has done an incredible job with his team, they don’t have a lot of height and not a lot of depth, and for them to be in the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years is quite an accomplishment,” Sean Miller said. “I think we’re all very proud of him.”

If the Wildcats defeat Texas Southern, they would face the winner of seventh seeded VCU (26-9) and No. 10 seed Ohio State (23-10) in the third round. OSU knocked Arizona out of the tournament in 2013.

Wisconsin (31-3) is the top seed in the West. Last year the Badgers beat Arizona in the Elite Eight in Southern California.

The West Region also features No. 3 Baylor (24-9), No. 6 seed Xavier (21-13) and No. 8 seed Oregon. Arizona coach Sean Miller led Xavier before coming to the UA and said he’s focusing on the short term outlook.

“We have a small picture,” Sean Miller said. “I clearly know that VCU and Ohio State play each other and if we would be fortunate enough to win the first game that we would play the winner of the game. I can’t go beyond that because it is just unrealistic for me at this point.”

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