When he was asked about the NCAA tournament placement of other Pac-12 teams Sunday, Sean Miller responded this way:
“We all learn lessons as a coach,” Miller said. “I’ve never been more motivated to coach Arizona, and our players and deal with the great fans we have. I’m only worried about us.”
Later in his brief news conference – another one is scheduled for this afternoon – Miller indicated his motivation stemmed from the way the Pac-12 Tournament ended for Arizona. He received a technical foul late in the game, blamed himself for getting it, and was later fined and reprimanded for his actions toward an official and a staffer after the game.
“I know this: Our players don’t have to go very far to figure out that I care a lot about them,” Miller said. “I see guys like Solomon, Mark and Kevin, who are one loss from their career ending, and it’s the greatest motivating factor for any team and coach. The further that we can take them, that we can take ourselves, that’s what this is about.
“March isn’t about a coach, a game, it’s about the players, these kids, it’s about the guys you know are never going to ever put a uniform on for the University of Arizona again. Our responsibility is to protect those guys, develop them and hope their careers last as long as they can possibly go. There’s a lot of emotion attached.”
Miller was asked if he increased his intensity for the NCAA tournament, and since he’s always pretty intense, he smiled before he answered that one.
“That’s impossible, probably, on my end,” Miller said, drawing a few laughs. “It’s more of the same. The one thing we try to do, and believe me it’s not like I’m sitting here with two national championships by my side, but you have to keep things as normal as possible. I don’t think you want your players or your team approaching this game as every shot is life or death, every moment, every dribble is more intense than it’s ever been.”
A few more comments from Miller:
On how much Jordin Mayes’ recent success makes a difference for UA:
“Does a lot. You think about conference tournaments and NCAA tournaments. Generally there’s a guy that comes off the bench or those players that maybe aren’t the marquee matchup at the beginning of the game and they just play really well. A couple of years ago, Jordin was 4 for 4 against Texas. You think about how close that game was and that game wasn’t about Derrick (Williams). It was about players like Jordin coming off the bench and playing with confidence. He’s one of many players right now who is playing his best basketball of the season.”
On his three freshmen big men:
“You can really sense that our freshmen big guys are really getting better and playing with a lot of confidence. Kaleb, in the last two UCLA games, had 22 rebounds. It's difficult to grab 22 rebounds against a team that is talented as them, especially if you consider that he played around about 50 minutes (total). He was terrific against UCLA. I continue to want to get him the ball a little more.
“Brandon Ashley had the best game he’s played at Arizona (against UCLA) under some really big circumstances and we’ve started to sense that Grant is coming along as well. I think it’s just a matter of time before they all hit their stride.”
On Belmont, and longtime coach Rick Byrd:
“We're really completely consumed with Belmont. Their coach is a great coach. Great guy. They’re not a good team -- they’re a great program and I think that’s a big difference. What I mean by that is they have been here before, they compete for championships. When you get recruited to Belmont, you are competing to be a part of the NCAA tournament. This isn’t like they’re in the NCAA tournament and they made it. They’re trying to advance in the NCAA tournament and they have players who have won a ton of games. They believe in their system and they believe in their coach."
Aaron Gordon will announce his college decision during the McDonalds All-American Game week, according to Scout. Arizona, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington are the finalists for the highly regarded 2013 big man from San Jose, Calif.
The McDonalds Game, which includes UA signee Rondae Jefferson, will be played in Chicago on April 3.
Belmont is becoming a trendy pick to upset the Wildcats.
Dondre Wise reminds us that it's Solomon Hill's 22nd birthday today.
We'll have a chat today from 12-12:45 if anyone is interested (though I also try to respond to questions in the comments section)