It could be worse
The old “Pac-10-style” weekend is no more for Arizona this season. While the Wildcats played Washington and Washington State in what used to be a common Thursday-Saturday turnaround, all of UA’s remaining conference games will have at least two days between them the rest of the way.
That’s good and bad, the way Arizona coach Sean Miller looks at it.
“There’s no reason to complain about the schedule,” he said. “Some games, you wish were earlier, some you wish it was later. But all 12 teams in our conference have the same situations both on the road and at home, so it’s up to us to be ready for it.”
It’s not all bad, though. UA will stay in Los Angeles the entire time between tonight’s game and Sunday night’s, allowing coaches to recruit and several UA players to visit with family, while the Wildcats still won’t have to worry about classwork because of winter break.
Sometimes, teams want to be on the road as little as possible. Miller’s coaching buddy, Thad Matta of Ohio State, was saddled with a 9 p.m. road game on Tuesday at Michigan State, and told Miller he wasn’t going to fly his team there until game day. OSU lost 72-68.
“Everybody has their way of doing it,” Miller said. “I think that’s pretty much how it’s become in college basketball. Teams, conferences are more expanded out than before. You’re playing 18 games, and you’re traveling a lot. It’s what we signed up for.
“The other part of it is we have so much more national exposure because of some of the scheduling things in place. I think it’s a great balance.”
Hanging in there
UA freshman forward Zach Peters has not played since Dec. 3 against Texas Tech, for what Miller has said was an illness and “where he’s at” in practices.
But Peters’ father, Tim, said the Kansas transfer remains in good spirits and is grateful to be healthy after a concussion-plagued start to his college basketball career. He said Zach had a bout with the flu before Christmas and was kept away from the team to avoid spreading it.
“He’s told me he’s had some great practices the last couple of weeks, and he’s ready to go,” Tim Peters said. Coaches “just told Zach to be patient. He’s perfectly fine with that. When you’re No. 1 in the country, all you can do is support that. … The key is to be ready when they need you.”
Miller played in the Big East and spent all of his coaching career before Arizona east of the Mississippi, but said this week he’d rank the UCLA-UA rivalry with the best in college basketball.
“Just as somebody who follows college basketball and has been a part of it, you get a feel for the incredible tradition and some unreal coaches,” Miller said this week. “It’s always going to be a game of great meaning.
“I think it’s (comparable) to Duke and North Carolina, though those schools are obviously much closer together. It’s like Syracuse and Georgetown when you had John Thompson and Jim Boeheim, like Florida and Kentucky with Billy Donovan and John Calipari. For UCLA and Arizona, I would put it in the same context.”
You might think it was hard for USC coach Andy Enfield to walk into Pauley Pavilion on Sunday.
After all, Enfield was quoted as telling his team to “go to UCLA” if they wanted to play slowly, and a magazine story said he noted that UCLA coach Steve Alford has been to as many Sweet 16s (one) in 18 years as a head coach as Enfield did in two seasons.
But if there were any verbal fireworks headed his way at Sunday’s USC-UCLA game, Enfield says he tuned them out.
“I could write a book on what fans say; I think I’ve heard it all,” Enfield said. On Sunday, “I was trying to figure out what we could do. I was oblivious to what was going on.”