Greg Hansen: First-place Arizona Wildcats played like lesser team

2013-02-23T17:28:00Z 2013-02-23T18:38:57Z Greg Hansen: First-place Arizona Wildcats played like lesser teamGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 23, 2013 5:28 pm  • 

Sean Miller could’ve painted a rosy picture after Arizona improved its record to 23-4 on Saturday, but he chose to paint one of a team that was 4-23 and had just lost to Slippery Rock.

It wasn’t a Picasso, it was a Pick M. Apart. A dumpster fire is prettier.

He mentioned that if the Wildcats play Wednesday the way they played in Saturday’s 73-56 victory over Washington State, they’ll get “drilled at USC, down 10 at half, rolled right out of L.A.”

“It’s terrible, it’s terrible,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

And the Wildcats are in first place.

It was like a new Marine recruit arriving at Paris Island, expecting to get a cozy bunk and a nice dinner, and discovering that the drill sergeant had just read a “Dear John” letter.

You think it was an act? A coach pushing the psychological buttons of a team that seemed (and performed) as if disinterested in Saturday’s second half? Not me.

I’ve sat through more than 100 of these post-game sessions with Miller and this was the first time his face took on an icy, almost pale, hue. And I’m sure the reporters scribbling down notes got the sanitized version of Miller’s true feelings.

So after 27 games and a season spent almost entirely in the top 10, what do we really know about the Wildcats?

Not much. Not yet. All of the truly meaningful games lie ahead.

We know that Angelo Chol is the fan’s favorite player, but that he is averaging 2.1 points a game.

We know that at least once a game Nick Johnson jumps higher than Dick Fosbury. Too old to identify with Fosbury? How about Brigetta Barrett? But for all his athleticism, Johnson has averaged 6.8 points over his last seven games.

We know that Brandon Ashley looks like he stepped out of an issue of “What a Future NBA Player Looks Like” monthly, but that he fouled out in 16 minutes on Saturday and leads the team with 76 fouls even though he is sixth in minutes played.

We know that a zone defense, like the one Wazzu inflicted on Arizona in Saturday’s second half, makes the UA offense look like a BMW with four flat tires.

We know that Arizona never has and never will score on the final possession of the first half. On Saturday: long three-point attempt by Mark Lyons that bounced hard off the rim.

We know that Saturday was a good day to be Kevin Parrom, because he swished 5 of 6 three-point attempts. Do you understand how significant that is for Arizona’s offense? Dating to the ASU game more than a month ago, Parrom had made five treys, shooting 19 percent.

We know that Mark Lyons wasn’t feeling well, but he is such a gamer that he played a team-high 33 minutes and scored 14 points. We also know that Lyons has a tendency to be contrary; on Saturday he wore some unusual red-and-white socks that seemed to show an image of the New York City skyline. Do you think Nike issued those socks to the UA or that, Lyons being Lyons, he wore them because, um, because they are his lucky socks?

We know that Kaleb Tarczewski often has difficulty handling the ball in heavy traffic, but on Saturday he flushed a missed shot on an offensive rebound, tossed in a nice flip-hook and made four of five foul shots. “I’m starting to find myself,” he said.

We know that Arizona isn’t going to score 100 points in the game, or even 90, and we know that it often goes a week or more without a fast break basket. Arizona is averaging 73.4 points and hit that average on the nose Saturday. Do you know how many genuine blowouts the Wildcats have in conference play? Two. This season isn’t for the faint of heart.

We know that turning on the TV and hoping to find an Arizona game can be an adventure. Saturday’s game was on something called Fox Sports Arizona Plus, which, according to my cable guide, was either on channel 440 or 9575. No wonder I got a text at halftime demanding to know why the game wasn’t televised.

And we know that this 23-4 season that sometimes feels like a 4-23 season is so screwy that after every home game, a UA player is sent to the press table to do an interview with Francisco Romero on KTKT (990-AM).

It’s a Spanish-language station, but Romero interviews UA players in English, who, in turn, respond in English.

I don’t know what Parrom told KTKT on Saturday, but Romero’s translation to his audience was probably “Entrenador esta muy enfadado.”

Coach is really angry.

Buckle up. This isn’t going to be a smooth flight.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362, ghansen@azstarnet.com or on Twitter @ghansen711.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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