NCAA Notes: Arizona focused on other Wildcats
When Arizona was selected as the No. 1 seed in the West Region of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, UA head coach Sean Miller flipped the page.
Everything Arizona had worked for was now in the past. They are now focused on their first game of the tournament on Friday against the No. 16 seed Weber State Wildcats.
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“Well obviously it’s a new day,” Miller said after learning his team’s seeding and first opponent would be. “We’re obviously excited, and I think at the same time being able to take a deep breath and say ‘the regular season is now over.’”
It’s clear Miller won’t be filling out a bracket. When asked about the other schools in the West Region, Miller said he was aware of them but didn’t appear he had studied anything other than the three schools playing in San Diego this weekend.
UA head coach Sean Miller gestures during Arizona's win over Utah last week in Las Vegas. Miller said the Wildcats' experience in Las Vegas will help them in the NCAA tournament.
Miller believes the NCAA tournament is about the task at hand. Once you start looking into the future and focusing on what he calls “people on the outside” are saying you’re setting yourself up for failure.
In fact the average college basketball fan probably has watched more teams play than Miller. When asked if he watches other schools play on television in case the event they do match up in the future Miller said “I just watch us constantly, obsessedly.”
(1) Arizona vs. (16) Weber State
When: Friday, 11:10 a.m. MST/PDT
He even said in the tournament he’s so focused on the next opponent and Arizona that he doesn’t watch the other games that are happening unless the winner is a for sure an upcoming opponent.
“It’s about us playing really well, the best we can play, on a neutral court on Friday against Weber State, period,” Miller said. “The seed, the history of the seed, if we’re fortunate enough to advance, that’s all for the outside world to talk about.”
Junior guard Nick Johnson, along with members of the ZonaZoo, will appear on one of the covers of Sports Illustrated this week.
The Wildcats join Florida, Syracuse, Wichita State, Michigan State and the UConn women’s team as the squads featured on SI’s six regional covers this week.
“An amazing honor to be on the SI cover. But it’s about one thing now. #DALLAS,” tweeted Johnson.
The Final Four is in the Dallas suburb Arlington, Texas this year.
Sports Illustrated is offering students in the photo to be tagged with their Twitter handle by tweeting with the hashtag “#SICoverStar.”
Despite losing to UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament championship game on Saturday the Wildcats are empowering themselves by taking what they learned from the three days in Las Vegas at the tournament and using it in the NCAA tournament.
“When you get into a conference tournament you really draw sometimes from those experiences,” Miller said. “Because it’s a neutral court, its single elimination, there’s a lot of pressure, and I think you can draw from what you just did and move in to San Diego.”
Miller went on to say it especially helps when you have to play multiple games in a short time span. During the conference tournament Arizona played three games in three days, all at various times during the day. That will translate well into the NCAA tournament where if they win and advance on Friday they will quickly have to turn around and play a new team on Sunday.
Arizona has a new motto, “play to win,” something that might sound obvious, especially during March, but it’s another mind set that Miller is trying to instill in his players.
“We have to play to win, you can’t be out there not to lose,” Miller said. “It’s just easy to do. You get tight. Almost like your success works against you.”
The Wildcats, who aren’t just fans of mottos but also analogies, use the recent Super Bowl as an example of the new motto.
When the Denver Broncos’ center, Manny Ramirez, over shot quarterback Payton Manning on the opening snap of the Super Bowl it was strange. The NFL’s best offense had a crazy error. And one they hadn’t done all year.
“You start saying its different, the ball is heavier, it’s the Super Bowl,” Miller said. “For us it’s about being who we are and doing what we do.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella