Arizona basketball: This 16 trip sweeter than last

Cats might have been fat, happy in '09; now they're more focused
2011-03-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-24T10:03:39Z Arizona basketball: This 16 trip sweeter than lastBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Anyone who tried to tell MoMo Jones this week how good the Arizona Wildcats were in reaching the Sweet 16 was probably out of luck.

"To be honest with you, I haven't heard it," Jones said. "I keep these big headphones on, and I just walk around."

That's probably a good thing for a young team that has drawn concern from coach Sean Miller at times this season for being "fat and happy."

There's no room for fat and happy when Duke is next. The Blue Devils (32-4) are the defending national champions and the No. 1 seed in the West Region.

"That's the one thing that we're trying to instill in our team, that this game is so much about great effort," Miller said Tuesday. "The team we're playing is great at that. They have a lot of talent, a great coach, their defense is terrific, but it's the effort level they play at that can really catch you off guard, and we're trying not to let that happen to us."

The week before the Sweet 16 can be a dangerous one for young teams or those not expecting to be there. The Wildcats rejoiced after making the 2002 Sweet 16, despite having lost four starters from the previous year - then were bounced 88-67 by Oklahoma in the West Region semifinals.

In 2009, the Wildcats made a surprising return to the Sweet 16 after barely making the NCAA tournament field - but were blasted 103-64 by Louisville in the next game.

Even though the Wildcats were not expected to reach this Sweet 16, either, junior forward Brendon Lavender said there's a different feel than he sensed two years ago.

The Wildcats, this time, intend to keep playing.

"I feel like this team is more focused and determined to win," Lavender said. "My freshman year, we didn't have that same motivation. This year, we're really on top of everything. I'm excited."

The Blue Devils, of course, have a way of providing motivation. Arizona last faced the Blue Devils when the Wildcats lost in the 2001 NCAA title game.

"They take everybody's best shot, and they don't flinch," Miller said. "Every team tries to match their great intensity and effort, and at best, it's almost a wash."

But at the same time, Miller said it's possible to be respectful without being intimidated - because, he said, Arizona has a proud history, too.

The ever-confident Jones certainly felt that way. When asked what the iconic Duke program represented to him, the UA sophomore guard responded in typical fashion.

"We're an iconic program, too," Jones said. "Arizona means more to me than Duke will ever mean to me."

Tight turnaround

Another reason the Wildcats may not rest on their first tournament weekend success: They can't.

Arizona's charter flight home from Tulsa didn't arrive until about 1 a.m. Monday, Miller said, and Arizona chartered out again to California on Tuesday evening.

That left them in Tucson for only about 40 hours, with one full day of practice.

"It's very quick, but it's like that for both teams," Miller said. "I think the hard part of our journey was leaving Tulsa and getting back to Tucson.

"My hope was that our guys were able to get both feet on the ground (Monday), and then (Tuesday), you're practicing, but you leave right afterward. It's almost as if it hasn't really stopped. That's all about being a mature team, a focused team, and that's what's required in this tournament, because it's very difficult to advance."

Parrom to play

Miller said he expected sophomore forward Kevin Parrom to be able to play Thursday with a sprained ankle he suffered against Texas.

Miller said there were initial fears Parrom might have suffered a high ankle sprain, which likely would have kept him out this week. The injury did swell up, but Miller said it is progressing with rehabilitation.

"I don't know if he'll be 100percent" Thursday, Miller said. "But I'm hoping he'll be effective."

Parrom wasn't available for comment at Tuesday's news conference, but Jones said, "Kevin will be fine."

Miller honored

Miller was named the District20 Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches on Tuesday.

He was also given a similar honor for District 18 in 2008 as coach at Xavier.

Former UA coach Lute Olson won the District 20 award twice, in 1989 and 1993.

Sweet 16

• Who: No. 5 Arizona (29-7) vs. No. 1 Duke (32-4)

• Where: West Region, Anaheim, Calif.

• When: 6:45 p.m. Thursday

• TV, radio: Ch. 13, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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