Arizona men's basketball team's head coach Sean Miller held his weekly press conference via Zoom on Tuesday, Feb. 23, to discuss the final games of the season and what he wants to see from his team.
With the self-imposed ban taking effect this season, the Wildcats will not be able to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Arizona will also not play for the regular season Pac-12 title because of their current conference record. Regardless of that, Miller is still focused on his team’s upcoming games and closing the season out strong.
“We just want to play really well,” Miller said. “We want to see if we can win both of these games [against Washington and Washington State] this week, but it will not be easy. Washington State, in particular, is playing really well. They have been able to beat Stanford and UCLA at home. We do not have a big window in front of us and we want to gain from the momentum that I hoped we established by winning a tough game against USC on the road.”
It is an understatement to say that this season has been unpredictable. COVID-19 has caused many games to either be rescheduled or canceled. Just this past Monday, Feb. 22, it was announced that Arizona will face Oregon on March 1 for its final game of the season. These two teams were supposed to meet earlier in the year, but the game had been postponed.
Miller said he sees it as a welcomed surprise since it will give his team more opportunities to grow as a unit.
“We just want to play games,” Miller said. “If we can play our entire Pac-12 conference schedule … that in of itself is quite an achievement. I am happy for our players.”
After Miller spoke to the media, Pac-12 Freshman of the Week Azuolas Tubelis spoke with reporters. Tubelis is from Vilnius, Lithuania and prior to his first year at Arizona he had never played basketball in the United States. When asked about what his favorite experience has been so far, Tubelis did not want to limit his favorite experience to just one.
“I think it is every game,” Tubelis said. “Every game we had was really tight. We ran away [with the game] in the last minutes or we lost [the game] in the last minutes. It has been a very good experience to fix my mistakes and see what I have done wrong.”
Being an overseas player, there is no doubt that Tubelis has fans watching him back in Lithuania. His biggest fan is his mom.
“She watches every game,” Tubelis said. “I get texts after every game before she goes to sleep. She has two hours [to sleep] before she has to wake up for work, but she asks me about why [a certain play did not go right] and why the referee did not give me a particular call.”
The Wildcats play their next two games in McKale Center against Washington State on Feb. 25 and against Washington on Feb. 27.
Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter