Sean Miller’s first major NCAA tournament break (an 11-seed in the Sweet Sixteen is a treasure) naturally must be against his ex-girlfriend (wife?). Because if we’re to take Chris Mack at his word, there’s a few things at play here: 1) He and Miller have already agreed that Xavier will win this one, 2) That it really stinks to battle your mentor. We have to imagine the former is a joke and the latter a sharp reality and the converse – playing your mentee – is no more fun.
Alas, let’s learn a little bit more about playing this particular 11 seed tomorrow:
Sweet Sixteen – #11 Xavier
It is my humble as well as braggadocios belief that Arizona is one of the four best teams in this tournament.
Of course this has sent me into something of an identity crisis. As you’ve loyally followed these pages, I have a clear and – once again – braggadocios stance on the power of KenPom and other metrics to explain a team’s chances to win a basketball game. As it were, I do not love Arizona by its advanced metrics. They do a little bit of everything well, nothing particularly great. They’ve also had one of the more unique roster situations of recent memory lending itself to a lack of performance continuity outside of one of the game’s most critical stats: WINNING. A wholistic view of the metrics, as aggregated by Five Thirty Eight tells us that the Wildcats have the eighth best odds to win the whole damn thing. Crisis averted?
I’m still just moderately satisfied. Saint Mary’s is a higher rated KenPom team with higher odds of reaching the Elite Eight than the West’s 3 seed, Florida State. The Gaels, in fact, have higher Final Four odds than UCLA and Oregon. We can get to Randy Bennett and the challenge the Gaels pose later. And no matter the case, no one said winning this thing was easy. Arizona, as an intact roster including Trier et. al. was KenPom’s 10th rated team. The 538 aggregate accounts for that and other preseason measures, a means to keep us all honest. Yet if the WCC (Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s) is providing Arizona’s greatest hurdles to making its first Final Four since 2001, then I’ll take those chances. Furthermore, Arizona was rewarded with just a 16-seed in the Name of the Year Bracket (s/o Chance Comanche). Does all this mean I’m an eye test guy?
First Round – #15 North Dakota
Lauri Markkanen was struggling.
And despite those struggles, mock drafts are still touting him as the first pick. Sports Illustrated profiled him today.
It’s a unique juxtaposition as we hit the homestretch of the season and Lauri has looked less like a lottery pick and more like a Finnish freshman. Before earning this past week’s Player of the Week honors, during the previous five games, the sharp shooter had connected on a cool 27% of his shots. In earning the aforementioned award, the Finn shot 53% afield. Continue reading
I’m skipping straight to Saturday’s game. It’s neither my job nor responsibility to be weary of overlooking an opponent. Arizona’s visit to USC is intriguing and I’m indubitably, unequivocally, absolutely watching. I’m in fact meeting a new hoops friend – RTC contributor, Michael Lemaire – for a Thursday evening of viewing and fandom. A delight.
But I’m not previewing Arizona’s visit to the Galen Center. Continue reading
I’ve previewed all of the teams except ASU (11th best team so…pass and really just no time). It’s been a distracting week. College basketball is here. This is the preview of my team. Here’s where I previewed the others!
At initial writing, Chance Comanche was still suspended, indefinitely, from playing for Arizona (it’s since been announced that he will play today vs. Michgan State). His suspension allowed us a gloriously tragic photo narrative. Because Allonzo Trier is officially not in Hawaii; Ray Smith sustained his third ACL tear (terrible) and has retired from basketball; Graduate transfer and native Tucsonan, Talbot Denny, also tore his ACL in the pre-season and is out for the year; recall that former Arizona commit Terrence Ferguson headed down under to pursue a paycheck in lieu of college. That’s five scholarship players disappearing in three months time, with one reappearing just this week (Comanche). Consider that another of the allotted 13 schollies is held by Dylan Smith, an ineligible transfer, and Arizona was briefly left with seven scholarship players right:
Of course Comanche is back now but eight isn’t miles better than seven. Consider a practice. Consider a full season grind, an injury here or a tweaked body part there. While depth is overrated in college basketball as quantified by the % of bench minutes used by Final Four teams, it’s not overrated when it comes to protecting against the trials of a season (i.e. Dylan Ennis (foot) <> Casey Benson, Allonzo Trier (hand) <> no Elliott Pitts (last year), Xavier Johnson <> George King)
Last season on Anywhere but Anaheim
Gabe York once dunked over a kid in a high school game. As York was an Arizona commit, I probably watched that moment on loop 1000 times. The poor kid had no idea it was coming. York elevated over the unsuspecting high schooler and made him poster material (although I think it’s time that we update the insult from posterized to Vined or Tubed or something more to the digital effect). Here it is but know that it’s a featured search result for “Gabe York dunk” Continue reading
There’s a story floating around about Kaleb Tarczewski’s AAU days. I can’t recall where I heard it or even if I’d heard or read the tale. I’m not entirely sure I’m not making it up. But the story goes something like this: Tarc takes a shot to the mouth, dislodging his tooth. He finds the tooth – whether in his mouth or on the floor – and proceeds to the bench…where he hands it to a teammate and carries about the AAU contest.
Consequently, Sean Miller called him the toughest dude he’s ever coached. Continue reading
“FEED ME!!!!” screamed the emaciated college basketball news cycle. The monster, who hadn’t eaten a satisfactory meal since Andre McGee was paying hookers and Rick Pitino didn’t go to ACC media day was starving. The tip-off marathon wasn’t going to cut it. His belly growled as he had nothing for bleary-eyed college basketball nerds watching 24-hours of their favorite sport.
Because, of course, the contests themselves are never enough. There must be narrative beyond ball-in-hoop. The monster must eat. Continue reading
It’s a funny relationship that Arizona Basketball has with Illinois. On the one hand, we can’t shake the 2005 meltdown, a haunting game played in Chicago against the best University of Illinois team ever. Arizona lost that Elite Eight game, in over time, and hasn’t been to a Final Four since.
The state itself, however, has also provided Arizona such talents as Kenny Lofton, Andre Iguodala, and Michael Wright.
Michael Wright passed away yesterday. Continue reading
I could note that Steve Kerr first mentioned Lute Olson on the NBA Champion’s podium or that Adam Silver handed Andre Iguodala the Finals MVP Trophy. Could note that Luke Walton is tracking to be the greatest coach in NBA history or that TJ McConnell is the only player in League history to – it’s pretty ridiculous stat and godbless the kid who researched it – record 12 or more assists in 2 or more of his first 4 games. As Nike would have you know, Arizona basketball doesn’t stop (except for Adidas schools from the 30th State). And it doesn’t project to be taking this year off. Sure they’re out of the AP Top-10 for the first time since before Cuonzo Martin knew who Ivan Rabb was (and now they’re teammates!). But this is a notably new team. For starters, there isn’t a projectable lottery pick on the roster. There isn’t a 6’8″ freak that’s soon to be bullying in a West Coast arena near you. This team isn’t going to be the defensive stalwart you watched for the past two seasons. For Tucsonans, it’s going to be a season of change and they’re going to be uncomfortable with that. Embrace it. This is a year in which we’ll see Sean Miller flexing his coaching acumen. I’ll get into his roster options later, but this Arizona team, while not as sexy as years past, just might be the most fun.
Why I love them