Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Notes: Sean Miller’s Longest NCAA Tourney Stretch Broken


In Sean Miller’s 10 years in Tucson, three times the Arizona Wildcats have not made the NCAA tournament, including this season, after a run of 25 straight years in March Madness for the program.

Miller was on a six-year March Madness run after finishing 23-12 with a first-round loss to Bucknell in the 2012 NIT. That was the longest NCAA tournament stretch of his 15-year coaching career. The previous longest was a four-year run to close out his Xavier career from 2005-06 to 2008-09.

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Lute Olson missed the NCAA tournament only once in 24 years, his first season in 1983-84 after taking over a program that went 4-24 the season before. Interim coaches Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell took Olson-recruited players to the NCAA tournament in 2008 and 2009.

Something to think about: The last two times Miller missed the tournament his teams went 30-8 with an Elite Eight appearance in 2011 and 27-8 with a Sweet 16 run in 2013. Arizona was 67-9 over the next two seasons (2013-14 and 2014-15) and went to the Elite Eight, losing to Wisconsin in each year.

If Miller is back in 2019-20, don’t count on him being down again, especially with a top-ranked recruiting class.

Arizona ties in the tournament

Arizona is not in the NCAA tournament but former player Justin Simon is with St. John’s facing ASU in a First Four matchup Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. Simon, a junior, was selected the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

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If Simon would have stayed, he would be a senior, but he saw the writing on the wall after playing in only 24 of 34 games as a freshman, averaging 7.5 minutes. He would have faced a battle for playing time as a sophomore because of commitments from five-star guards Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins and Miller returned Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

The Wildcats also landed five-star wing Terrance Ferguson of Dallas before he decided to play professionally in Australia before embarking on his NBA career.

Simmons, Alkins, Allen, Jackson-Cartwright and Ferguson were not around this season.

Another Arizona connection: the son of former Arizona center John Edgar, who played during the early Olson years, is with UC Irvine. John Edgar Jr. is a freshman with the Anteaters who is averaging 6.4 points and 3.0 rebounds a game.

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He started 11 games for UC Irvine, which is seeded No. 13 and playing No. 4 Kansas State in a South first-round game on Friday.

Does this count? Mitch Lightfoot of Kansas (No. 4 seed in the Midwest) grew up in Tucson cheering for Arizona. He played his freshman and sophomore seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14) at Ironwood Ridge before moving to Gilbert and playing for Gilbert Christian.

Still not losers

Although Arizona is not in the postseason the Wildcats can move on knowing they have not had a losing record since Olson’s first season when they finished 11-17. That’s an incredible stretch of 35 straight seasons above .500.

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The number of losing seasons for Pac-12 teams (since 1983-84):

Arizona — 0

UCLA — 4

Stanford — 7

Utah — 8

Oregon — 10

California — 11

Washington — 13

Southern California — 16

Arizona State — 17

Colorado — 17

Oregon State — 21

Washington State — 23


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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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