Tag Archives: Derrick Williams

Solomon Hill Passes on Late Dining, Becomes First Rounder

Perhaps long ago it was projected that Solomon Hill would be drafted in the first round. But ever since first donning Arizona’s cardinal and navy, things have seemed to be an uphill (no pun) battle for him.

First it was his weight. Arriving on campus soft if not big and in the doghouse with first year coach, Sean Miller. Hill had sights on playing the two-guard while Miller was questioning if he’d play at all. In that freshman campaign, the aspiring two connected on just four three pointers at a 22% clip. By the time he left Tucson, he would make 111 more at a 38% clip. And though he wanted to be a two-guard, his team needed him to be a forward. So he did that; leading the team in rebounding in 2011-12 as the team’s second tallest contributor. The following season, Miller and the Wildcats needed him to do everything. Once again he did, finishing amongst the top-3 Wildcats in nearly every statistical category.

The consummate teammate, Hill worked hard his entire Arizona basketball career and on Thursday night he saw the fruits of his labors.

Solomon Hill was drafted twenty-third overall by the Indiana Pacers. The first round.

Quickly, he was welcomed to the league:

Hill is Miller’s first four-year player to be drafted, a momentous occasion for his proclaimed Player’s Program. Such a talent and meaningful component will undoubtedly be missed.

I, for one, enjoyed watching every bit of the aforementioned development. Each October it looked as if a new player had arrived, energized to be the best player he could be to make his team the best it could become. It near broke me as his most valiant of efforts to come back against the Ohio State University didn’t quite shine.

Floor, meet all of it. Hill’s MO whilst in Tucson.

Alas, this isn’t a post-mortem, it’s a celebration of the kid’s hard work. Bravo, Solo. The Pacers are getting a tremendous worker as mentioned but perhaps, more importantly, they are subtly piecing together a very modern basketball team. They’re compiling the pieces to become a conglomerate of versatile and large defenders. A tone set by the two-time champion Heat and swiftly being adopted across basketball (see: 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes, Kawhi-love, Pacers roster).

A closing anecdote:

I was presented with a late arriving invitation to last season’s basketball media day. My first access to credentials, I promptly let work know I was sick while spending the vast majority of media-day-eve preparing myself to ask a plethora of questions. And when finally faced with my moment to confront Solomon – he was alone at the Arizona circular, banquet-style, luncheon table – I anxiously approached. My prepared question somewhere amongst my notes but dancing top of mind.

“Solomon! I’m Adam Butler with SB Nation, how are you today?”

“Good man, how are you?”

Did he just bother to ask me how I was? Indeed I was caught off guard but had question, top of mind. A mission.

“Solomon, I’m from Tucson and I’ve just go to know: Nico’s or Beto’s?”

A brief silence ensued as the 22-year-old contemplated my asinine request to understand for which local taco shop he held an affinity.

“Never been to either one, actually. Heard they’re good, though?”

Never had this collegian been to Tucson’s most notorious – and fantastic – late night dining.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s why he’s headed to the league.

Capturing Their POY Momement: Crabbe, Carson, Others?

We are entering awards season and while I’m not about to make too many picks, I do think Argo and Silver Linings Playbook will be announced frequently this coming Sunday.

But just as these films get some late sprucing as Oscar Sunday is approached, some late hoopla and for your consideration moments, so too do the candidates for Pac POY. As sports fans, we’re fully aware of moments and celebrate those who capture them. While Derrick Williams was walking away with the POY award, his depositing of Darnell Gant’s shot was a POY moment. I suppose for Jorge it was some charge he took.

But here we are at the homestretch, the final time to showcase one’s goods for award consideration and as I see it today, we have just a handful of POY contenders. The field:

  • Allen Crabbe: 20/6/3
  • Jahii Carson: 18/3/5
  • Spencer Dinwiddie: 15/3/3
  • Shabazz Muhammad: 19/5/1
  • C.J. Wilcox: 18/5/2

Other names could be dropped into that list but then we’re just building out an All-Conference team and we’re not here for that. We’re looking for the one and even this list feels long. But the Academy is now dropping ten films into consideration so I figure we can extend ours to five.

Now I haven’t the slightest clue what the voting criteria are. I don’t know if this is an award given to the best player or the most valuable one but as it were, looking back historically, it appears the award is given to the conference’s best player which tends to also be the most valuable. An easy overlap. Just rattling off the last few winners’ names you get that sense: Williams, Randle, Love, Harden, Afflalo, Roy. All very recognizable names.

Team success often plays a part which is why Brock Motum didn’t win last years award and the coaches decided to give Jorge a career achievement award.

But this year, as is clear by the above list of studs and their output, there’s a legitimate battle for the award. Interestingly, Arizona and Oregon have such balanced production that their best players have played their way out of POY contention (though I think they’ll be OK with a conference title or a nice March run in its stead).

Diving into that list, I’ll say that I really like Spencer Dinwiddie’s game. I think he’s a complete guard with tremendous size and a league future. I don’t think he’s going to win this award. That’s not to drop him from this list, he makes it in my mind as an MVP-type, but as POYs go, he’s not yet there. And while CJ Wilcox is one of the smoothest players in the league, 13ppg against the conference’s top three teams (AZ, Ore, UCLA) doesn’t exactly do it for me. One thing that definitely does it for NBA scouts is Shabazz’s mid-range game which is lethal considering his size and athleticism. But his game is relatively mono-faceted – scorer – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just would seem to eliminate him from the POY race. His team does sit near the top of the conference but their collective success seems to have them in that position.

And so we’re left at two: Carson and Crabbe.

The former is a super freshman. He’s the centerpiece of ASU’s transformation into possible dancers and has been equal parts fantastic and valuable. Crabbe too has been great and perhaps overlooked until recently as his team has catapulted back into the top half of the conference standings.

So facing what appears to be this two man race and returning to the aforementioned moments, who will capture theirs?

I think Allen Crabbe is going to have a big chance tonight as his red hot Bears travel to Eugene to take on the first place Oregon Ducks. A big game here and Crabbe maintains POY-mentum. And this is really his biggest opportunity for a statement game. It’s the last team the Golden Bears play ahead of them in the standings; though big games against Colorado and/or in The Big Game (3/6) could go a long way in securing the award.

Last night, Carson did nothing to hurt his chances of POY-dom with 21/4/5 against the lowly Cougars. He’s vying to become just the third freshman to ever win the award, joining the likes of Kevin Love and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Good company and his closing arguments could come in the form of big games on the road. A place the young man is learning to thrive. Remaining are contests at UCLA and at rival Arizona by which Carson could find his name etched onto the POY cup – or whatever it is they give the player.

But the overarching excitement here is that we are having a POY talk which means we’re remarkably close to what’s shaping up to be one of the maddest Marches in awhile.

As my buddy Jamie recently asked, “How do we get this sport year ’round?”

Guest Blog: BH on his Favorite McKale Memories

Arizona will be celebrating McKale’s anniversary tonight, so I asked a great Wildcat, my buddy BH, to answer Sean Miller’s question:

February 1st marked the official 40th anniversary of the 1973 opening of McKale Memorial Center. For those of you that don’t know, McKale Memorial Center (or just “McKale”) is located at 1 National Championship Dr. Tucson, AZ 85721, and houses the home court of the University of Arizona Wildcat basketball team. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, McKale is also the venue for some of my greatest college basketball memories (RIP RCA Dome [1]).

Fittingly, Sean Miller took to the Twitterverse to ask Arizona fans what their favorite memory at McKale was. As a coach who knows that many a Wildcat fan has an encyclopedic knowledge of every great game at McKale since 1973, this is a great PR move by Miller—who consistently has a deft touch when it comes to fan engagement. However, for this lifelong fan picking one memory is impossible, let alone fitting it into 140 characters. As such, @UACoachMiller: a list of my 3 favorite McKale Memores #guestblog:

Salim from the Cactus

Salim Stoudamire is one of my all time favorite ‘Cats. If most people are like me, they can’t remember the kid ever missing a shot—especially a three. Say what you will about J.J. Redick‘s 2005, Salim shot a ludicrous .504 from behind the arc. But it’s the afternoon of Saturday, January 15, 2005 that stands alone.

UCLA was in town with second year coach Ben Howland and 14,558 fans were there to watch with me. McKale was rocking: National TV, Steve Lavin on the call, and the red sweater crowd was standing. Arizona trailed by four at the half, but mounted a comeback fueled by Salim’s 24 point, 9-for-11-shooting second half. With the clock running under thirty seconds UCLA’s freshman prodigy, Aaron Aflalo, had just tied the game with a three. But now it was Arizona’s ball. Salim casually received it near mid court and cleared things out to break down Afflalo. Then, without warning, he pulled up from 27 feet and launched an arcing three pointer. The ball hung in the air for what seemed hours, and then like a movie, splashed straight into the net like a stone into a pond. McKale erupted.

The Other Rivals

At the end of the 1990’s and early 2000s Stanford and Arizona battled back and forth for Pac-10 supremacy. They forged a rivalry that featured heart wrenching defeats, heart stopping wins, top 10 matchups, and twins, always twins. I still get annoyed thinking about Mike Montgomery in his glasses, sitting on the bench clutching his clipboard, chewing gum and orchestrating plays for his limitless stable of three-point-assassins. Needless to say, beating Stanford was great. Beating Stanford when they were ranked second in the land entering McKale and favored by Vegas to win? Even better.

If I’d known or cared about spreads and betting as an 8th grader I would have told Vegas to go fly a kite. In 2000 Arizona just didn’t lose at McKale. In fact, leading into this Stanford game Arizona had only lost 15 times at home since 1990, and since the 1996-1997 season, had lost only twice at home by a combined total of 4 points. Vegas needed a better bookie. In 2000, when you marched through the tunnel under Speedway en route to McKale, you weren’t marching to a game. You were marching to a prelude to victory party. And March 9, 2000 would be no different.

Richard Jefferson was returning from a foot he had broken earlier that year in a win at Maples. He came off the bench for 19 points that day and as Stanford shot meaningless free throws at the end of the game he smiled and gestured to the crowd to quiet down as they chanted, “overrated, overrated.” And when the clock struck zeros, it was Jefferson himself celebrating atop the scorer’s table with fans streaming onto the floor.

The Block

At 4 pm McKale Center time on February 19, 2011 Washington and Arizona tipped off in McKale with first place in the Pac-12 on the line. Some two hours later the game finished as Derrick Williams blocked Darnell Gant’s potential game winner into the stands. The Block.

Many Wildcat fans will tell you that The Block is their favorite McKale memory. And you’d be hard pressed to find a single Wildcat fan in McKale that day that would say anything different. I was watching the game by myself in my friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon and it’s still one of my favorite memories. I can’t tell you what happened after I leaped up in jubilation and smashed my hands into the ceiling immediately following Williams’ blocked shot, but I’d imagine I immediately called or texted the author of this blog.

This game makes the list because it is probably the greatest McKale memory in the Sean Miller era (due respect to the Florida game this year). This game had all the ingredients: Miller had asked all the fans to wear white and all of them did, the game was nationally broadcast on ESPN, and the Pac-12 title was on the line. What made this game special is this was the first game in several years at McKale that really meant something. Arizona fans knew they had a special player in Derrick Williams and knew they had found a coach in Sean Miller that was going to do special things.

It was a coming out party for Miller, the program, fans at McKale, and fans in Tucson and across the country. When Derrick swatted that shot into the sea of white every one of those fans from McKale to Portland let out a cathartic jubilant scream years in the making.

Honorable Mention:

The 1993-1994 ‘Cats welcomed the Michigan Wolverines into McKale. These were the same Wolverines of Fab Five fame that had run out of timeouts just one year earlier in the National Championship game. Although Chris Webber had split for the NBA, they came to town in their oversized shorts and with plenty of swagger. Khalid Reeves welcomed them to town by torching them for 40 points in a 119-95 route.


[1] The RCA Dome in Indianapolis hosted the 1997 Final Four, where Arizona won its first (and only) NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.

Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be seen at ryanrecker.com. Worth the visit if you like a good podcast or some legit prose. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-Tucson.

The Pac-12 finally got their marquee non-conference win. Granted, it didn’t involve a basket or a ball or even a scoreboard. Arizona outdrew both the ACC (Florida State) and Big East (Pitt) combined in ESPN College GameDay attendance. BOOM! Put that in your calculator and RPI it!

Leader in the Clubhouse: This is a tough one to call so let’s talk it out:

Cal has the track record and has consistently looked like the team to beat
But Washington marched into Tucson and left with a win
But Cal just beat the Huskies in Seattle
But Washington couldn’t hold court against the Jackrabbits
But Cal has lost to the Cougars and Beavers
But Washington has the tougher SOS
But Cal has the higher RPI

Back-and-forth to be sure and I ultimately give the edge to Cal here, but the point isn’t the aforementioned bolds and italics. The point here is that halfway through the Pac-12 season I think the cream has finally risen to the top. Or, perhaps better said, the pretenders are showing their true colors. Allow ourselves some optimism and we’ll call it the former but whilst on the topic of true colors, UW showed theirs. By wrecking the whiteout, UW finally got that road win so many of us needed to see in order to take the HecEd homers seriously. The proverbial corner turned, Romar’s squad has pieced together what I’d call a nice in-conference resume. There’s still half-a-schedule to play but at 7-2, both the Huskies and Bears can rightfully claim to be the conference’s elite. These two, unfortunately, won’t tip off again this season (unless it’s in the Staples Center) and that’s really a shame because the one time they did it was a helluva game. Shout out here to USC for winning their first conference game.

Game of the Weekend: The Block, Part II OR The Foul, Part II. What do you want to call it? Presumably the former if you’re a Husky, the latter a Wildcat – you’ll recall this. While Tony Wroten’s block may not have had quite the drama of Derrick Williams’ a year ago, it was no less game saving and no less gigantic. The man-amongst-boys freshman may have efficiency, turnover, and overuse issues, but he owns the lead on a quickly improving if not good team and made the play of the game as the final buzzer sounded. Of course – and we’re back to asking if you’re a Husky or a Wildcat – the play of the game could also have been the blocking call with just over five seconds remaining in the newly tied game. There’s no doubt it was a foul but why did Josiah Turner need to try and draw a charge there? Freshman mistake? Lost in the moment? Did he just Horne-it? Whatever it was, it put the Huskies at the line for a chance to seal the victory which CJ Wilcox did. Cold blooded, if you will. But I need ask no question regarding your allegiance when I tell you that this was a terrific basketball game and fit the billing of the GOtW. Perhaps lost amidst the hectic finish to this game was Solomon Hill’s night. He missed two shots and took eighteen. Sweet efficiency did he have a ballgame finishing with 28 and 11, his third straight double-double. Also, Terrence Ross: good.

The Big Loser: A case could be made here for a number of teams: Colorado seemingly can’t get over the hump and win on the road; Oregon lost at home to Oregon State; Stanford and Arizona have dropped to 5-4; WSU lost to ASU; Utah lost to USC. Looking back over that list I’m reminded that we’d previously said we were going to be optimists in this post so I won’t mention the foul stench of sub-mediocrity. I digress and move on to my final answer: Stanford. Sure they lost on the road in a rivalry game but this team is offensively inept and it’s beginning to glare. They’ve lost three straight in which they’re shooting a cringe-worthy 36% from the field and 19% from distance, a shot the Cardinal rely far too heavily upon to shoot so poorly. I’d love to give Johnny Dawkins’ crew the benefit of the doubt and excuse this losing streak to playing on the road, but that’s too many excuses for a team that played a non-non-conference schedule. I’m selling my Cardinal stock but investing in their classmates.

What We Learned: Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’ll recall that Arizona junior, Kevin Parrom, was shot in the hand and leg while visiting his dying mother on the heels of losing his grandmother? Yeah, that month occurred this past summer and the road back has been a long one for Parrom. But he was back. The Wildcats’ spark plug understandably needed more time than perhaps fan patience would allow but he was back, averaging 9/5/3 in the three games leading up to Saturday’s whiteout, demonstrating the complete and gritty style he’s come to be known for. And in that game, in leading the Wildcats to a halftime lead, the junior put up 7/3/2 in just ten minutes of play. Kevin Parrom was indeed back. But when the second half began, Kevin wasn’t back. He wasn’t on the court, he wasn’t on the bench. Nothing was said by the ESPN crew and when the cameras finally found him, he was wearing a boot. You see the human foot accounts for about one-eighth of the bones in an adult – a significant number in the grand scheme of things and subsequently an increased probability of breakage. Basic math, right? The odds played out on Saturday and Kevin Parrom’s season was declared over. A broken foot to blame. Grandmother, mother, mortality; no, life isn’t always fair. But maybe to break Kevin Parrom you must actually break him. Incapacitate him so he can’t be the heart-and-soul of a basketball team, recover from heartache amongst teammates and family, or play the game he loves. Nope. Not breaking Kevin Parrom can break Kevin Parrom. Just ask him.

Early Week YouTuber: This happened.


BB: Andy Katz and the Seven Year Project

It seems like ages ago that the Arizona basketball program was in shambles. Seeking their fourth coach in as many years, then AD, Jim Livengood had been thrice spurned (Calipari, Pitino, Floyd). And not only were they out a coach, there wasn’t much of a roster, either. The 2008 class was thin and the 2009 class? Non-existent.

The cupboard bare, the coaching hunt fruitless, things looked bad in Tucson.

It was then that Andy Katz said it. The senior college basketball writer for the worldwide leader proclaimed the rebuilding job at Arizona a seven year project. The declaration provided Wildcat nation with a lifetime of message board fodder and ensured Katz would forever be buying his own drinks in Tucson.

Wildcat fans were livid. Citing Arizona’s seat amongst the elite collegiate programs, draft picks, national prestige, and pride there was no way in a frozen desert it would take seven years to be good again.

Then Sean Miller signed, Tim Floyd resigned, the twelfth ranked recruiting class fell into Arizona’s lap, and Derrick Williams happened. In just his second year, Sean Miller had the seven-year project one shot from the Final Four. Arizona fans couldn’t serve the crow to Katz fast enough.

But what if Katz was right?

Or at least half right. Today we find ourselves looking at a less-than-talented Arizona squad playing mediocre basketball in a bad conference. This is the type of season that Miller was supposed to be coaching through in year three. This is normal when the aforementioned recruiting blunders and institutional mayhem set back a proud, elite quarter century of basketball.

But normal is not befitting fandom.

So Katz has taken heat at the cost of perspective. The reality is Arizona won the lottery with Derrick Williams and timed their brief demise just perfectly with the dramatic decline of Pac-12 basketball. The whole picture actually supports the fan’s view but Katz’s point isn’t a relative one. Sure, Arizona is back when compared to the rest of the conference. They’ve won a conference title and are back in the tournament. So if you’re truly satisfied with a five seed riding the coattails of a miracle player and following that year up with a “competitive,” you should be leading the charge against Katz.

But if your barometer is UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, and the nation’s other elite programs, the school’s Arizona was once synonymous with, then you can understand Katz’s perspective and the current state of Wildcat affairs.

Take the example of Kyle Fogg. For all of his hard work and perimeter defense, Fogg is not the type of talent that has the sixth most starts in school history. That would place him between Channing Frye (13 ppg/7 rpg/1 apg) and Salim Stoudamire (15/2/2) on the U of A career starts list with an outside shot of sitting alongside Anthony Cook (12/6/1). Fogg’s numbers (8/2/2) are comparable to Chris Rodgers (6/2/2), Jamelle Horne (6/4/1), and Isaiah Fox (3/3).

Stretch comparison? Perhaps, but none of these players are particularly relevant to Wildcat lore and Kyle Fogg will be; a strong indication of the program’s failures in the past seven-plus years. And be clear, by no means am I hanging any of Arizona’s woes on Fogg. He’s a tremendous role player. But he is a significant indication of the rebuilding that was and is in order, not a four year starter at Arizona.

Miller has done a better job than anyone could have imagined – Katz has to top that list – and certainly sped up this rebuild. Just look at his 2012 recruiting class. Arizona is going to be good – very good – but last year was an anomaly. Derrick Williams doesn’t fall into your lap very often. It’s taken three hard working years to secure that 2012 class and more work will come to secure the ’13, ’14, and beyond classes. That work will soon manifest itself on the court.

Until then, remember that Arizona is not trying to be the best team in the Pac-12. They’re trying to be the best team in the country and that’s not going to happen in two seasons. This is a program still rebuilding.

It just may be built in a little less than seven years.

BB: Derrick Williams is Gone, Time to be a Team

This post can also be found at pointguardu.com

A puzzling Arizona season manifested itself in the closing moments of the Wildcats’ overtime win against Oregon State.

The scuffle was instigated by an aggressive and agitated Kyle Fogg who quickly backed off and disappeared from the melee. It was then propagated by Solomon Hill who demonstrated the most interest in the bout but was ultimately a non-factor. Others attempted to make their way into the shoving match, but were unable to make an impact. Then, when the dust settled, it was Kyryl Natyazhko who was ejected.

Does this sound familiar? Does it sound like the 44 minutes of basketball leading up to the events on the baseline? Perhaps the UCLA game? SDSU, Gonzaga, or Mississippi State?

Much has been made of this team’s lack of a go-to player and the Oregon State game confirmed that the 2011-12 Wildcats do not have one. There are some talented pieces to Sean Miller’s roster but no one individual can be consistently relied upon.

Perhaps this group is playing with the ghost of Derrick Williams; waiting for their knight in shining armor to bail them out of any and every circumstance. The vicious forward undoubtedly played the go-to role and it was going to be difficult to replace him regardless of how good Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, and the rest of the freshman class were. Attack was his default mode and it showed as he led an underwhelming Arizona team to the Elite Eight. And while having a go-to player is not imperative, it’s certainly an advantage and a pressure release for a team’s perhaps less talented players.

But Arizona’s victory confirmed another thing about these Wildcats: the sum can be greater than the parts.

On Thursday, it was Brendon Lavender, scoring 15 of his 18 points in the second half of the critical home win; supplementing the efforts of his teammates. Before that, Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry, Hill, Fogg, and Johnson have each played the lead but not without significant other contributions. There certainly have been flashes of individual brilliance amongst this group, a positive indication that this team can do things.

But the ultimate success of this group will be their ability to overcome a lack of nightly individual output and play significant team basketball; particularly in a season featuring lineups centered by the 6’6” Kevin Parrom and absent of a scorer in the teens. The team ability and concept are there, the consistency is yet to come. Coach Miller called the Oregon State victory the “best game of the season.”

And at this critical juncture in the Wildcats’ season, the Wildcats could be gelling at just the right time.

With their toughest games yet to come, Arizona still controls their tournament destiny. To ensure they’re indeed dancing, the ‘Cats will have to continue to shake the ghost of Williams and continue to improve as a team. Growing on their “best game of the season.”

When Kyle Fogg chirped at Jared Cunningham and Solomon Hill jumped into the raucous and Kyryl Natyazkho was ejected, some individual faults may have been exposed. But look more closely and you’ll notice it was sixteen Wildcats the Beavers had to deal with.

Not one.


BB: It’ll take some time to find it

In an impassioned post-game speech last March, Arizona Coach Sean Miller exalted to his team, “Nastiness is required.”

You’re all familiar with it. Over the following months it became the program’s unofficial motto; tossed across message boards and columns and the McKale pregame intro video. It was a big moment for a building program and, simply, it’s true.

Nastiness is indeed required to be a great player, a great team, and a great program. Do you think Williams felt bad putting Darnell Gant’s shot into the student section? How was Isaiah Thomas feeling about taking and hitting the game winner in Momo Jones’ eye for the Pac-10 title? Do you think Miller had any qualms swooping Kaleb Tarczewski from Bill Self’s front porch? No. And each was nasty.

So, after two lackluster exhibition games against inferior opponents, I ask: where is the nasty?

Has it been swept away amongst the hype? Is it buried in self-induced pressure? Does it simply not exist?

Yes, there’s been a lot of hype. Yes, individuals have built a lot of pressure to perform (Fogg, Hill, Perry). No, it exists and it’s there.

As Miller tinkers and adjusts, challenges and teaches, we’ll slowly begin to see this group of Wildcats play Sean-ball. The proof is in the pudding. After being outrebounded – and beat – by an undersized, less talented Seattle Pacific team, Miller’s squad promptly responded by more than doubling Humboldt State’s rebound total and grabbing 29 more boards than against SPU.

Each season brings a learning curve and this one is no different.

As the season develops, so too will Josiah Turner’s control of the offense and the bigs’ control of the lane. Kyle Fogg should convert his now famous 40,000 jumpers into some semblance of confidence and a rotation will emerge. Miller calls his current rotation a “jigsaw puzzle,” working to put the right pieces in the right places to make a beautiful picture. Right now, the 2011-12 Arizona Wildcats puzzle is barely out of the box, not yet scattered across the table.

A group looking for its identity, feeling each other out and learning to play against bigger, stronger, faster opponents than 140 pound high schoolers, will take a little time to get nasty. Because nastiness certainly is not 20 turnovers (14 from upperclassmen) or being outrebounded by a D2 school. It’s responding to those setbacks, improving when you can, and making your teammates better.

So now we begin; a thirty-one game journey stating tonight that will have bumps and setbacks, highs and lows, wins and losses. It’s an uncertain path but one thing is for certain:

Nastiness is required.