Things appear a bit rocky inside the McKale Center. Following back-to-back losses, a seemingly imminent transfer, a public benching, lineup shuffling, and a fall from the top-25 rankings, such an assumption wouldn’t be too far off.
With expectations high – as they should be – in Tucson, Sean Miller’s squad has not quite lived up to the hype six games deep. It’s been well documented that this team lacks significant size and depth in the front court, has no true point guard, is searching for a “go to” player, and is overtly youthful.
These were concerns heading into the season and have been highlighted in the team’s performance thus far. In this brief sampling of 2011-12 Arizona Basketball, it would appear that this team may struggle.
Lest of course we forget that this is Sean Miller’s third team. Or that this team relies heavily on underclassmen in critical roles. Or that, despite a run to the elite eight, Arizona had the same issues a year ago.
This program’s curse has been its uncharacteristic success amidst turmoil. A “heavy weighs the crown” type situation where expectations swallow realism and patience is lost.
It’s a situation where creative and free flowing high school and AAU stars are not forgiven a learning curve. Where reliable role players are expected to fill the shoes of lottery picks, and 6’8” power forwards must fill entire lanes.
This is the reality of the 2011-12 Arizona Wildcats, a team that will learn in time and, above all else, compete. Because that’s what Sean Miller teams do.
Nine months ago, I reminded Wildcat fans not to hit the panic button. Arizona had just been swept convincingly in Los Angeles and looked like a lost team late in their season. It was a less than encouraging time as the Wildcats had lost significant momentum in the Pac-10 race heading into the final weekend.
Alas, we all know what happened next. The Wildcats went on to win the conference championship including seven of their final nine games en route to Anaheim and one open jumper from the final four.
Don’t hit the panic button this year. Not yet, anyways. This team may not have championship talent, there may not be an All-American on the roster, let alone a center, but they’re going to learn, they’re going to improve, and they’re going to compete.
Take Miller’s word for it, “The same five that started against San Diego State will never start another game (together) at Arizona.” There isn’t much reading between the lines in that quote: compete (AKA don’t dig a 15-2 hole to start a game) or find your way to the bench. This message will be heard loud and clear in the locker room and quickly manifested on the court.
Six games into the season, it’s no secret who this Arizona team is. They’re going to struggle here and excel there, learn and grow a lot. And in due time, they’ll hit their stride, seamlessly running the offense and defense, understanding and filling appropriate roles. \
In summary, be patient because this group will get there.