Dizzying memory

Those watching the replay of Nick Johnson's block of San Diego State's Chase Tapley to save the Diamond Head Classic final last week weren't the only ones surprised.

So was Johnson.

"I don't know," Johnson said, when asked about it. "I just made a play. I really don't know."

Although UA is not in session, preventing countless students asking Johnson about the block, he said he received "a lot of tweets" about it and has relived the moment himself.

"A few times, just thinking about how close we were to messing up our perfect mark," Johnson said. "It was just a great game, and we rallied at the end."

Because of that play and others through 12 games, UA coach Sean Miller said Johnson "might be our most important player" at this point of the season.

"In a way, in a nutshell, that block was almost just like a moment that really shows everything you see in Nick - great concentration, great effort, and obviously tremendous ability," Miller said. "I'm very, very happy with Nick's performance throughout the entire nonconference, and I believe that he can only grow and build from that performance."

Stretching the weekend

Because the Pac-12's new media rights deal seeks maximum exclusive television windows, the conference's old Thursday-Saturday format is being stretched further than ever this season.

Games are being played anywhere from Wednesday to Sunday, and the prep time in between games can vary. Utah, for example, played ASU on Wednesday but won't have to play Arizona until Saturday.

ASU, meanwhile, won't play Colorado until Sunday - giving it a full three days to prepare for the Buffs but only three more to prepare for Oregon State on Jan. 10.

"No question" it makes a difference, said UA assistant coach Joe Pasternack, who scouted Utah. The Utes "have two days to prepare, and we only have one."

The Wildcats' first four two-game Pac-12 weekends will all be the old-fashioned Thursday/Saturday combination. But in February, UA will have a Wednesday/Sunday, a Thursday/Sunday and two Wednesday/Saturdays.

"Some people say it's an advantage when you're on the road," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said of the extra day. "But if you're in school, it's an extra day of missed class."

Unhappy New Year

The Chinese Association announced Monday that former Wildcat Marcus Williams was suspended six months - and his club was fined the equivalent of about $1,500 - after he tested positive for marijuana.

Williams, who has played in the NBA and D-League since leaving UA in 2007, recorded the first positive test in China's pro league.

"I have let a lot of people down, and I regret it more than anything," Williams said in a statement. "I understand everyone's disappointment, and I will do everything to improve and grow from this."

Playing it safe

Although Miller generously scheduled a New Year's Day practice at 2 p.m., giving his guys a chance to sleep in, the Wildcats appeared to have taken it relatively easy New Year's Eve.

"It was a normal night for me," Johnson said. "I went to bed at a decent hour, got up and had some breakfast. With us, you can't really go out and get too crazy. We're in the season. You can't be a regular student."

Miller said all coaches speak to their teams about restraining themselves but that it was up to players to do so.

"Part of what you give these guys when they go to college is responsibility," Miller said.

"No one's going to be with them from midnight all the way till five in the morning.

"But I do think we have a focused team and everybody understands we're beginning conference play and we've invested a lot. And I'm sure that the guys did a good job. At least I hope so."

Happy New Year

Besides, the Wildcats did their own form of celebrating a week earlier by winning the Diamond Head Classic.

"Good to bring in the New Year being 12-0," forward Kevin Parrom said.

The Wildcats had a three-day break after the Hawaii tournament, which they set up by carrying the Diamond Head Classic trophy on the plane flight from Honolulu to Phoenix.

"It was good coming home with that big trophy," Parrom said. "It was a six-hour flight so that made it a lot smoother."

Colorado at Arizona, 6 p.m. today, ESPNU, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

He said it …

"They have a true system that they're very good at, led by their two guards who are terrific players and very aggressive playmakers. They're complemented by (Andre) Roberson, who can go inside and outside. Josh Scott has picked up where (departed center Austin Dufault) left off - and he's bigger and more of a low-post threat. They look for him early and he can post. They call his number a lot."

James Whitford, Arizona associate head coach who scouted the Buffaloes

Utah at Arizona, 3 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Arizona, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Sp)

He said it …

"They're doing a lot of the same things (as last year), but they have a lot better players. They really have a talent upgrade. Just taking care of the basketball against their changing defenses is going to be huge for us. They have new guys, but they're experienced."

Joe Pasternack, Arizona assistant coach who scouted the Utes