And it’s not a new feeling. Since Sean Miller arrived in Tucson, expectations were tempered and then quickly elevated as he made an improbable run into the 2011 Elite Eight and that was awesome. I went to Anaheim to see Jamelle Horne’s three rim out. I walked out of that place with hope and excitement – amidst some hollow gut – for the future of this program.
Of course last year let some of the air out; but then the recruiting class and Lyons and the promise of veterans Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom, and we were back.
We all know this story and the subsequent 29 games that have transpired since. Expectations and hype are gone. Reality arrived.
Of late, the air has once again been let out.
But here’s the thing. I see an Arizona team that has struggled with urgency. A group that’s allowed itself to play from behind too often and now that’s burning them. Their early success in such situations, through the lead of calm veterans, perhaps earning them a level of comfort that grew too comfortably. Urgency has been the issue.
Saturday marks the beginning of the new season. The final act in what should prove to be a three part act: 14-0, 9-6, ?. This third act will not be lacking in urgency because there is nothing but urgency left.
On Saturday we will celebrate the careers of the first, four-year Wildcats of the Sean Miller era. They’ve endured the bumps and bruises of a budding program and will be just the second and third four-year seniors to participate only twice in the NCAA tournament (Kyle Fogg was the first). The theatrics of Senior Day should serve as a glaring reminder that this whole thing is finite. It doesn’t go on forever, you don’t get to connect over Patric Young or dismiss Chase Tapley or freeze up in LA and Colorado forever.
Urgency is the issue that has been addressed but not handled and now it’s going to be forced.
Solomon: You lose and it’s over.
Kevin: You lose and it’s over.
Mark: You lose and it’s over.
I know it means something to the fans, the legacy a player leaves behind, and this is the month when legacies are cemented. That Horne jumper I mentioned before? Had that thing fallen, it’s a whole different memory for the four-year contributor who always seemed to leave a lot to be desired.
And I imagine it means a lot to them. After all, they came to Arizona to compete for things they might not have otherwise competed for at another school. They wanted to finish with the best 18-game record. They want to run through a tournament in Staples (now the MGM). They want to hear their school’s name called on a Sunday. They want to win their last six games.
At this juncture, the legacy is beginning to spiral; taking a turn towards “what happened” and off of the road to “special.” Because something special is what we knew Arizona had – what that team knows they have – when this season started. A dyanmic front court with size and length and skill. A gutsy and tried play maker delivering arrogance to a group perhaps lacking just that. A spring loaded off guard capable of defensive havoc and highlight reel finishes. A veteran pair of point-forwards who have laid the red carpet for those to come.
But special can’t happen until the urgency of these finite moments is realized, embraced, and attacked. The Wildcats have been dropped into the deep end. Will the sink? Or will they swim?
Yeah. I’m excited.