Hell n' Back: Adversity-filled season has Arizona playing its best

Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona men's basketball head coach Sean Miller smiles as he cuts down the net after the Arizona victory over USC Championship game at the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday, March 10 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

LAS VEGAS — The famous saying goes that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. The newly minted Pac-12 Tournament Champions can attest      to that.

Drama, chaos, adversity and everything in between have been thrown in the face of the Arizona men’s basketball team, and each time it appeared the Wildcats were on the edge of falling off the cliff, they came back mightier than ever. 

It would be folly and a waste of time to rehash the details of each roadblock that stood in the way of Arizona; the journey from August to March has enough chapters to fill a book. But through each test, the ‘Cats persevered.

One only has to look as recently as a couple of weeks ago, when Arizona was without head coach Sean Miller due to the ESPN wiretap report and Allonzo Trier who sat idly on the bench, ineligible due to a positive PED test. 

That was perhaps the biggest hurdle when the entire legacy of Arizona basketball was about to collide with an iceberg.

Somehow, Miller and his crew steered through the deadly waters to find safety on shore.

In a season where chaos was the norm, perhaps the least chaotic chapter has been Arizona running the table so far in March to capture not only an outright regular season title, but back-to-back conference tournament championships as well. 

“We stuck together, and you hear it all the time, that adversity can bring out the best in a group, bring a group closer together,” Miller said. “And in some ways that really is the identity of our team. We fought all year, and hopefully we can continue to fight here for a couple more weeks.”

The jubilation let out by both players and coaches showed what a relief it is to finally focus on just winning basketball games. 

“It’s great. All that [drama] is in the past, and we feel like we’re playing our best basketball and we have a lot more to prove,” senior Parker Jackson-Cartwright said. “Nobody is giving us anything, or giving us the credit we deserve.”

Since the calendar flipped, Arizona has played like a team that knows it will be judged on how it performs in March. 

Deandre Ayton has performed at superhuman levels, while the surrounding players have done their part at the right times — not to mention the defense, which has produced its best three-game stretch all season.

The coming weeks will be a chance for Arizona to write the final chapter on its rollercoaster season — no outside drama or distractions, just good old basketball. 

Arizona has found its identity through adversity, and the NCAA Tournament will provide the next set of on-court hurdles to clear. 

Wherever they are headed off to next, one thing is for certain: The Wildcats aren’t dead yet; they are stronger than ever.

Follow Alec White on Twitter

Share this article