Arizona Wildcats basketball: On predictions, the West and staying loose

2014-03-17T02:01:00Z 2014-03-17T13:29:57Z Arizona Wildcats basketball: On predictions, the West and staying looseBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If Sean Miller ever decides to leave coaching, there’s a job he might like that gets a particularly high profile every Selection Sunday.

He could be one of those guys on TV who says Arizona will lose to Belmont (last year) or Oklahoma State (this year).

Easy money, right?

“Unfortunately, the people who predict, no one ever holds them to their prediction,” Miller said Sunday, when asked about analysts saying they could be upset by the Cowboys. “They then go on and make other predictions. It’s an awesome job. You do it, and if you’re right, great. If not, who cares? Just do it again.”

So maybe the fact that Arizona wasn’t often picked to win the West Region by many of the CBS and ESPN analysts Sunday was a good thing for the Wildcats, even as Miller discussed his team’s need to focus on the present.

“It’s about us playing really well, as best we can play, on a neutral court against Weber State on Friday,” he said. “The history of the seed, if we were to advance, that’s all for the outside world to talk about. That’s part of the greatness, but we have to focus on the task at hand.

“We’re going to play a regular-season champion, a tournament champion, somebody who’s been in the tournament before. Anytime you play a team that’s that prolific on offense that has shooters like Weber State does, they’re the team that can be successful in the NCAA tournament."

Another popular theory Sunday: That the West Region is the weakest of the four.

“That’s hard to predict as well,” Miller said. “What you find is some of the teams that you felt were strong -- `Wow, they got upset, they’re not even in the tournament’ -- so it can change quickly in one game. It changes dramatically in the first weekend. If you looked at us a year ago the seed we played in the first round, anything can happen.

“What you want to avoid is being that higher-ranked team that doesn’t advance. So for us we have to play to win. We can’t be out there playing not to lose. We have to e out there very single minded with our approach. What I hope helps us is that we’ve instilled that from day 1.”

As the No. 1 seed in both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, Miller has also made a point of telling the Wildcats to play to win and not to play to not lose.

There’s a difference, of course.

"It’s just easy to do. You get tight,” Miller said of . “It’s almost like your success works against you. … The most prolific offense in the NFL, they snapped it over Peyton Manning’s head. Why was that? I don’t think they did that all year. But you start to say the ball’s heavier, it’s the Super Bowl.

“Now it’s the NCAA tournament and we’re a one (seed). That’s good. It’s never bad. And for us it’s about playing to win. To be who we are and do what we do and go out and try to be the best team we can be. We know that Weber State is an unbelievable three-point shooting team and they’re well coached, so let’s be ready for them.”

During Miller’s news conference, word came that Friday’s game would tip at 11:10 a.m., after the Wildcats played at noon, 6 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Pac-12 Tournament.

“Oh great,” Miller said, smiling. “No (it doesn’t matter). Again, we just played in Las Vegas, first at noon, then six then three, so we're prepared for that. When you get into a conference tournament, you really draw on those kinds of experiences because it’s a neutral court and it’s single elimination and there’s a lot of pressure.”

Miller still has not lost to a lesser-seeded team in the NCAA tournament at Xavier or Arizona, which means history suggests good things for the top-seeded Wildcats.

“I sure hope that streak continues,” Miller said. “They’ll be a lot of great moments over the next three or four weeks. But I think sometimes you can make too much of what’s happened in the past. You’ve gotta stay in the present.”

UA is not making players available for comment to local media this week, but we will try to see what they think during the NCAA-mandated interview sessions Thursday in San Diego.

The Wildcats will be returning to Viejas Arena as the only team to have beaten San Diego State there this season.

A rundown of the postseason fates of Pac-12 teams:

-- ASU players had a good time watching their selection show, hoping to take advantage of a clean slate ahead.

-- Both UCLA veterans and coach Steve Alford are looking to overcome disappointments in last season's NCAA tournament.

-- Tad Boyle was glad Colorado's name was one of the first to come up on the screen.

-- Oregon faces a rematch with BYU.

-- Johnny Dawkins said it's been a long time coming for Stanford to get an NCAA tournament bid.

-- Washington's (NIT) bubble burst, ending the Huskies' season.

-- Cal received a No. 2 seed in the NIT and will host Utah Valley.

-- Utah only received a No. 5 seed in the so will have to travel to play at St. Mary's.

-- And guess what? OSU is in the CBI again.

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