Sean Miller may be struggling to win games with his young Arizona Wildcats, but his prognostication ability can't be beat.
Before the Wildcats suffered their worst-ever loss at McKale Center, losing 99-69 Monday night to Brigham Young, Miller said he thought the unranked Cougars would be the best team UA would face all season - and would go on to vie for a high NCAA tournament seed - while also hinting that Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette was an NBA prospect.
So what happened?
BYU's 30-point margin of victory was a McKale record for an opponent - Oregon State (1982) and North Carolina (2007) each beat UA by 28 - while Fredette set new BYU and McKale Center scoring records with 49 points. Getting many open looks but also creating plenty of his own, the slick-passing, sharp-shooting Fredette made 16 of 23 field goals including 9 of 13 threes.
"I can't say much post-game that I didn't say before the game as we prepared for BYU," Miller said. "I knew Jimmer Fredette was one of the country's best guards and I talked about their experience and incredible skill level on offense. Because they're not ranked, it's almost like there's no credibility to rankings."
The humbling loss dropped UA to 6-6 entering the start of Pac-10 play Thursday at USC, suggesting the Wildcats will have to win at least 11 games the rest of the way to have a shot at a 26th straight NCAA tournament appearance, unless they can capture an automatic bid by winning the Pac-10 Tournament.
BYU improved to 13-1, the third Mountain West Conference team to beat UA this season, and clearly the best of the three, just as Miller had warned.
UA players Solomon Hill and Kyle Fogg said the Cougars were better even than Oklahoma, which drubbed 79-62 on Dec. 6 in a game that was not as close as that score indicated.
"Definitely," Fogg said.
No doubt, Miller and game scout James Whitford warned the Cats about BYU the same way Miller did with the media when they returned from their two-day break on Sunday.
But it did little good. Long having displayed a troubling inability to contain an opposing team's top perimeter scorer under his average, the Wildcats let Fredette catch fire.
"It was tough," Fogg said. "He's a great player. They're a really well-coached team. They really run their stuff and get the ball in his hands a lot."
The previous McKale Center scoring record was 45 points, set by Providence's Eric Murdock on Dec. 23, 1990. The UA player record at McKale is held by Al Fleming, who had 41 against Detroit on Jan. 10, 1976.
BYU's school record was 47 points set by Bob Skousen against UCLA in 1961. Fredette, who had 24 points at halftime, broke the BYU record with a three-pointer with 2:55 left the game.
"It's an amazing feeling, unlike any other," Fredette said. "You work so hard in the offseason and from game to game and to go out and play like that is amazing.
"The first shot felt good and then I made like two threes in a row. That's when I started looking at the basket, and it was looking real big."
Fredette first made two three-pointers in a row just six minutes into the game, giving BYU a 20-5 lead. The Cougars went on to expand the lead to 22-5 and 27-7, handing UA its worst early deficit of the season, and things didn't get much better for the Cats.
UA briefly made it a game by opening the second half on an 8-0 run that cut BYU's lead from 16 points to 51-44.
But the Cougars called a full timeout with 18:10 left and quickly rebounded. They built the lead back to 20 points after Fredette and Jackson Emery hit three-pointers with just over 13 minutes to go and the game was never in question after that.
"Our team came out in the second half with lot of energy, but there was some fool's gold in what happened in the first four minutes," Miller said. "If you look closely, they had six or seven second shots and the difference was they couldn't convert. And along with not being able to defend the other team's best perimeter player, it was not an easy answer with our rebounding."
UA was out-rebounded 34-28 and committed 19 turnovers to BYU's 11. The Cougars also shot 56.9 percent overall from the field while holding UA to 46.4 percent, going briefly to a zone defense after UA's early second-half run when Hill and Derrick Williams each scored four points over four minutes.