Arizona Basketball

NCAA Tournament Notes: Arizona Wildcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes



Arizona coach Sean Miller fields questions in today’s press conference (click here for the link to the YouTube video)

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Notes, quotes and anecdotes of Arizona’s Round of 32 matchup with Ohio State tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. at Portland:

— Arizona will matchup with who will be one of the young NBA stars next season — Ohio State guard DeAngelo Russell — tomorrow. “The first thing that comes to mind obviously is he’s a top-five pick for sure,” Arizona guard T.J. McConnell said in today’s press conference. “He scores in bunches. You let him get hot, I don’t think there’s a very good chance that you can beat Ohio State. He makes their team go. We’re going to have to do a good job on him tomorrow for us to have a chance to win.”

— McConnell was sitting out the season as a transfer from Duquesne when Arizona lost to Ohio State in the Sweet 16 game two years ago. He mentioned that he did not attend the game and “wasn’t able to catch it live.”

— McConnell and Brandon Ashley were asked about Reggie Miller’s comment on TNT yesterday that freshman Stanley Johnson is a “reincarnation of LeBron James” because of his size (6’7″ and 245 pounds) and athleticism at the same stage of their development. McConnell: “The LeBron James comparison, I think Stanley has a long way to go to ever be compared to LeBron James. I know if he works hard, he could have a very long career in the NBA.” Ashley: “Physically and athletically, it’s definitely easy to compare the two. But talent-wise, in terms of work ethic and competitiveness, I’d say Stanley is right up there with him, as well.”


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The 2007 second-round matchup between Xavier and Ohio State with Sean Miller and Thad Matta coaching. Gus Johnson on the call. …

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— Somebody asked Sean Miller if he would ever consider playing a regular-season game at Ohio State, which is coached by his good friend and coaching associate Thad Matta. “I don’t know,” Miller said. “It’s too cold in Columbus. We like to stay in warm weather. We have palm trees. Why would I want to do that? We just watch them on TV and cheer for them.”

— A lot will be made of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson matching up with Russell, but Miller is wary that Russell has the ability to get others involved with his passing ability off penetration. Those drives will likely attract help defense that will make Russell more dangerous. “He’s the ultimate great player in that he not only does it statistically himself, but in so many cases he makes his other teammates better than they are because he gives the ball up,” Miller said. “He’s unselfish. He’s really a special player.”

Anthony Gimino of Tucson Sports Now wrote a blog about the impact ESPN’s “30 for 30” show about the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” has on this year’s team. Detroit overcame repeated shortcomings in the NBA playoffs before finally breaking through and winning the title. Arizona is the same way with two Elite Eight exits and the Sweet 16 loss two years ago. Gimino writes that Miller gathered his returning players over the summer for a “30 for 30” watch party. The players have watched it multiple times since. “He wanted our team to be like that,” McConnell said of Detroit’s tough psyche in the midst of working together toward the big prize. “We’ve watched it so many times that we’re pretty much like that. We kind of figured it out as they kept talking about how close they were and what they would do for each other. We said to ourselves, ‘We have to be like that.'”

— Miller was asked again about the “Bad Boys” documentary again during today’s press conference. “Once in a while we show different clips or talk about it throughout the year,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of messages that you can get out of it. I think most importantly is, with team success, it’s amazing how individual accolades follow, how players within a team, when they sacrifice, it almost comes back around where again they benefit.”

— The Pac-12 had 28 referees work games involving conference teams this season. Of those 28, 13 have worked games in the NCAA Tournament to this point including one — Tony Padilla — who has worked multiple games. Padilla worked one of the first Four games between Boise State and the Dayton and Round of 32 game between New Mexico State and Kansas.

— Teams must be careful to avoid a technical foul, not only for what they say to an official. Ohio State was charged a technical foul against VCU yesterday because it signed off on an official roster that included the wrong jersey number of one of its players. Trey McDonald wears No. 55 but was listed as No. 50 on the official scoresheet that was signed off by a Buckeyes assistant. VCU made one of two free throws after the technical foul was called. The game went into overtime before Ohio State prevailed 75-72. Can you imagine if the Rams made both free throws and Ohio State was sent packing?

— Former Arizona recruiting target Amir Williams, a senior center at Ohio State, is not much of a Pac-12 basketball fan. It’s not that he does not like the conference. He apparently does not have the time to follow West coast basketball. When asked about his counterpart tomorrow, Kaleb Tarczewski, Williams said: “To be honest, I don’t know too much about him. We just watched a little bit of the offense yesterday. I think as I watch film later on today, I can more feel for what type of player he is. As of now, I don’t know too much about him. I haven’t watched West Coast teams that much this year, to be honest.”

— How much are coaches dialed into their teams and not much else this deep in the season? Miller and Matta did not realize they may have to coach against each two years ago when the brackets were announced. “I think the funny thing about two years ago is on Monday night, Sean and I were talking, after the selection thing,” Matta said. “Sean says, ‘God, if we can get to L.A., could be like a home game for us because there’s a lot of Arizona people there.’ I said, ‘You’re going to L.A.?’ I said, ‘I think if we win, we go to L.A.’ We did the numbers. ‘Oh, my God, we could be playing each other.'”


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[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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