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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Miller says Arizona basketball needs to win the Pac-12 tournament

Colin Darland
The Arizona Wildcats took on the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, January 12, 2012 at Coors Events Center in Boulder, Colo.

The Arizona men’s basketball team recharged its season by winning seven of its last eight games and working its way into NCAA Tournament bubble team talks by playing its best basketball in February.

The Wildcats hit the 20-win mark and this week’s ESPN Bracketology has the Wildcats as a No. 11/No. 12 seed in the Big Dance.

But the Wildcats’ ticket hasn’t been punched quite yet.’s Jerry Palm has Arizona listed as part of the first four teams out of the tournament. And right now, head coach Sean Miller agrees with him.

On Thursday, Miller said he still thinks Arizona’s current resume, including a would-be win over ASU on Sunday, isn’t enough for the Wildcats to make the NCAA tournament cut.

“We have to beat Arizona State,” Miller said. “I think if we (don’t), I don’t think that we’re going to have any merit. I really look at us having to win the conference tournament. That’s our mindset.”

Miller’s goals for his team certainly make sense from a coaching perspective, but many think the Wildcats should make the cut if they beat in-state rival ASU on Sunday and win at least one game in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. Miller is set on a concrete plan: Get the automatic bid that comes with winning the conference tournament, rather than sit and fidget with the rest of the country on Selection Sunday.

“We’re probably in a category of about 20 teams that’s trying to get eight, four, six spots, whatever it is,” Miller said. “And it’s so much about winning. You have to keep going.”

Forward Solomon Hill said the desire to win the Pac-12 Tournament has always been the team’s goal, but a few key losses along the way have changed Arizona’s road to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve heard every story, from losing at Washington makes it a not-for-sure for us, to go to March Madness. We’ve heard we have to win it all,” Hill said. “We have to beat ASU and get as far as the second round. But I think everybody knows that we want to win.”

Miller said the team’s focus was to go as far as it can in the Pac-12 Tournament, and that’s a much safer bet than counting on the parity of the Pac-12 and other teams to help the Wildcats out.

Barring a Utah upset of Oregon on Saturday, the Wildcats are probably going to be the conference’s fourth seed, which would likely match them up against Colorado for the third time this season.

“There’s so many teams right now in the next 10, 14 days that are going to play themselves in by winning three or four games,” Miller continued.

Miller then cited Butler, UConn and Virginia Commonwealth as examples of teams that were not in the NCAA tournament before winning their conference tournament. The comparison is clear: build momentum through the conference postseason and hope it punches a ticket to March Madness and carries throughout the tournament, just like it did for all three of the teams which were not NCAA Tournament locks until they won their conference championships.

Butler, UConn and VCU all went on to the Final Four round of March Madness last year, with UConn eventually defeating Butler for the NCAA title.

“You look at successful teams that have won their conference tournament and they keep going,” Hill said. “UConn did it last year. And they went and won the NCAA Championship.

“So building momentum is always good for us. We build through the Pac-12 Tournament and get that automatic bid and then we don’t have to worry about it,” Hill continued. “I think the guys will really feed off of that.”

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