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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sweet 16 comparisons: 2009 vs. 2011

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The USC Trojans hosted the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats in a Pacific 10 Conference basketball game Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif. The Wildcats fell to the Trojans 65-57.

The only positive from Arizona’s 2009 Sweet 16 run was captured through a camera lens.

One single snapshot. That’s it.

The game hadn’t even started, but No. 12-seed Arizona appeared hyped enough to compete against No. 1 Louisville. Minutes before tipoff, a Daily Wildcat photographer caught the Wildcats huddled, hollering and hyped in a circle around the rah-rah walk-on David Bagga.

Then the game started.

“”We were in a hostile environment from the jump ball,”” Bagga said earlier this week.

Of the roughly 60,000 fans in Lucas Oil Stadium, 59,550 were Louisville fans who traveled 114 miles up Interstate 65 to Indianapolis for what looked more like a No. 1 vs. No. 16 opening round game.

The score reflected it, too.  

Louisville won 103-64 in a game that was over by halftime.

In the locker room afterward, nobody really seemed all too surprised, shocked or really cared to ask about the game. They had a new head coach to worry about: Who would take over for interim coach Russ Pennell? Would it be Rick Pitino? Bruce Pearl? Jeff Capel? Tim Floyd? (How good do those names sound today?)

Nobody could really complain about the loss. At least the Bookstore could sell a few T-shirts and McKale Center could add a new banner.

So what’s different this year?

— Location: Arizona dominates Southern California in students, alumni, fans, recruits and players. Six Wildcats call the area home while three hail from Orange County itself.

Red shirts should fill about two thirds of the Honda Center. Duke must travel three time zones.

Don’t get too excited: Arizona forgot to show up to its only Southern California road trip this season in exposure losses to Southern California and UCLA. This time, the Wildcats are banned from the ego-swelling machine that is Twitter in order to keep swagger in check.

— Path: The 2009 Wildcats overachieved that season and accidentally found itself in the Sweet 16 after beating Utah, a weak No. 5 seed, and No. 13 seed Cleveland State in the first two rounds.

This season, a feisty No. 12 seed Memphis filled us with storylines and the all-powerful No. 4 seed Texas gave the Wildcats slim chances at a 14th Sweet 16 run right from Selection Sunday.

Somehow they managed, and whether that means they’re battle-tested and confident or complacent and cocky will be evident tonight against No. 1 Duke.

— Leadership: Sean Miller can coach, and his effectiveness reaches beyond conventional statistics. Of all the Sweet 16 teams, the Wildcats hold the best after-a-timeout efficiency rating. According to Synergy Sports Technology, they average 1.001 points per possession and shoot 55.6 percent from the floor after a timeout.

Whether it goes back to Miller’s philosophy of “”winning every four-minute war”” after media timeouts or Miller’s philosophy of calling timeouts at relatively odd parts of an offensive run — it’s working.

Then again, Miller should know how to effectively handle his team in his 23rd month with these same players.

In 2009, Pennell had only been six months on the job.

The difference between those two stats?

One more than Sixteen.

—Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies senior. He can be reached at

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