Undefeated Cats lack Player of the Week
Each Pac-12 coach usually spends 5 to 10 minutes answering media questions during the conference's teleconference call every Tuesday. But UA coach Sean Miller ended his appearance this week by asking some of his own.
Miller asked Pac-12 spokesman Dave Hirsch, the moderator of the call, what UA had to do for one of its players to win the Pac-12 Player of the Week award. No Wildcats have been honored so far by the panel of Pac-12 staffers who decide the award.
"Don't you think it's somewhat remarkable that we can be 14-0, No. 3 in the nation and not one of our players has won it?" Miller asked.
Having preached to his players that individual honors will follow team success, Miller then asked Hirsch a favor.
"Don't give it to any of our guys if we start losing," Miller said. "That would ruin our credibility."
Same face, different team
Senior forward Arsalan Kazemi may be new to the Ducks this season but he's hardly a new face to the Wildcats.
The first Iranian to play major college basketball, Kazemi twice hurt the Wildcats while playing for Rice. As a freshman in 2009-10, Kazemi had 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks off the bench during UA's 66-49 win at McKale Center. A year later in Houston, he had 17 points and six rebounds in UA's 84-57 win.
This season, as a senior transfer for the Ducks, Kazemi averages 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
"You have a guy who leads your team in rebounding … and steals - that's one exceptional player," Miller said.
What a long, strange trip it's been
Former UCLA star Bill Walton, known at UA as the dad of former Wildcat forward Luke Walton, will be broadcasting tonight's game for ESPN2. As part of his renewed connection with the Pac-12, he will begin a nine-school speaking tour by bus around the conference.
"Over so many years, I've chased my dreams to UCLA, then on to the NBA for 14 years, and have followed that up with a (wide-ranging) business and media career ever since," Walton said in a Pac-12 statement. "The wild roller coaster ride of remarkable highs and lows, successes and failures, hope and disappointment has now brought me back to where I belong - to the beginning, where lives are built -college."
Walton is scheduled to visit both Oregon and OSU on Friday. He will appear at UA on Feb. 6, then work the UA-Stanford game that night.
Natyazhko earns degree
Thanks to online courses he took from Ukraine last fall, former UA big man Kyryl Natyazhko was able to pick up his degree in December.
UA announced Wednesday that Natyazhko earned a bachelor's degree in general studies with an emphasis on behavior and human understanding. Natyazhko left as a junior last spring to play professionally in his home country.
Holiday tournament re-think
Miller says he will re-think entering Christmastime events such as the Diamond Head Classic, after UA struggled to beat Colorado and Utah in its first games back on the mainland.
Miller said the Hawaii games, which included a wild showdown with San Diego State in the final, would eventually benefit the Wildcats.
"It's hard to do it because it's really a seven-day journey - a day to travel there and a day back," Miller said. "You play three games in four days, and then you have to fit in Christmas. Your players need to go home or recharge their batteries."
Ducks flying under the radar
Tonight will be Oregon's first appearance on the ESPN family of channels, and the Ducks could use the exposure. Despite their 12-2 record, unbeaten home mark and win at UNLV - their only losses are to Cincinnati in Las Vegas and at UTEP in overtime - the Ducks received only the 34th-most votes in The Associated Press Top 25 media poll this week.
"I don't know what people think about us," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "I think our team is making progress. We've only played maybe two national opponents in Cincinnati and UNLV. I know we've made tremendous progress but how good we are remains to be seen."
Looking for stability
In Altman's two-plus seasons with the Ducks, the turnstiles have been flipping pretty fast. Not only has Oregon benefited from incoming transfers such as Kazemi and center Tony Woods (Wake Forest), but the Ducks lost three-fifths of their 2011 recruiting class to outgoing transfers.
Altman said he hopes the trend will slow.
"I'd like to have a bit better foundation," he said. "We've been scrambling to put a team on the floor. We have six freshmen and I'm hoping the freshman class will give us the stability on which to build."
Arizona at Oregon, 7 p.m. today, ESPN2, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
He said it …
"The best thing they do is run. They really get it out and go. (Dominic) Artis is a jet-quick point guard who pushes the ball. He'll drive to score and shoot threes. He's hungry to score. (Damyean) Dotson is really athletic, can shoot transition threes. (E.J.) Singler drives the ball really well, can attack and he can also shoot threes. With Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods, they've really upgraded their front line."
- Joe Pasternack, Arizona assistant coach who scouted the Ducks
Arizona at Oregon St., 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
- He said it …
"They've been more man but they have the 1-3-1 in the bag and also a 2-3 zone they can match up out of. (The frontcourt) is one of the most talented in our conference, with (Eric) Moreland, (Joe) Burton and (Devon) Collier, plus (Olaf) Schaftenaar stretching you as a four-man. They're very long, very athletic. I can see them playing the majority of the game with a 1-3-1. We have to be able to rebound the ball and protect the ball. They're very good in transition."
- Book Richardson, Arizona assistant coach who scouted the Beavers