Arizona Basketball

Rivera: Three top observations from Arizona Wildcats’ tentative victory

For years, probably too many to count, Arizona was the top, um, dog, er, Cat in the Pac-10/Pac-12 and everyone in the conference wanted to knock the snot out of them.

Some days it happened, many times it didn’t. Arizona managed to win 14 conference titles and everything turned out OK.

The 2016-17 season has been two seasons in one: UA started off as the underdog and now through nine games Arizona is the one to beat. Talk about reversal of fortune. All it took was nine games and the collapse of Oregon and UCLA and the surge of Arizona.

“I feel more comfortable after this game than I would have after the UCLA game,” Miller said when I asked about being chased in the standings. “We’ve added a player and it affects everybody. It affects every possession.”

Arizona is now 20-2 overall and 9-0 in the conference. It goes up to Oregon on Thursday to face Oregon State and then faces Oregon, the predicted winner of the league to begin the season.

Arizona will have to play much better than it did on Sunday to get a sweep in the great northwest.

Here are three observations from Sunday’s 77-66 win against Washington:


Lauri Markkanen battles with two Washington players for a loose ball (Alex McIntyre/

Arizona has gotten to this point this season by being aggressive most games. Sure, it’s failed to be all out aggressive in some, giving up late-game leads only to recover and win. But Washington’s 2-3 zone played a part in Arizona looking a bit sluggish on offense in the first half and parts of the second.

Miller said the guy who may have been most affected by the zone was Allonzo Trier, who was 3 for 8 from the floor, including 1 for 4 from beyond the 3-point line.

“He’s come out of the gates and played great,” Miller said. “He was as tentative in the first half in the zone as any of our players. But that was his first game this season where he’s played against a 2-3 zone. Usually you have that feeling in November. I really believe he had that feeling today. I do feel we will be better because of it.”

Miller said his team is working through it and it’s not so much a chemistry thing but something his team must get better at.

Chance is becoming a pretty good player

So, I’ve written this a couple of times already but each game it seems Chance Comanche is getting so much more confident when he’s on the court. Did you see that slam in the second half? On Thursday, he hit a 10-foot jumper that was impressive. He finished with six points and three rebounds. He’s on the slow(ish) rise.

“Chance is one of the reasons why we’ve played well recently,” Miller said. “His field goal percentage is awesome. He’s more sure of himself, more confident.”

He went into the game hitting 77 percent of his shots. He went 2 for 4 on Sunday.

Miller said Comanche could have picked up some more rebounds but he has liked how he’s played.

“You have to remember Chance is so young, but the experience over the last couple of games (have helped),” Miller said.

Hey, UA is winning so enjoy

Arizona has now won 14 consecutive games and rising in the polls. It could reach as high as No. 3 when the polls come out on Monday given all the upsets this week with the higher ranked teams.

Still, it’s not a concern of Miller’s. He just wants his team to not be vulnerable.

“All you have to do is look around the country and there’s teams losing all the time because of things I’ve just said,” Miller said. “It’s very difficult to be very good every game.”

Miller talked about the peaks and valleys of the season and the last seven days have been different. Lots of pats on the backs.

“Nobody even rang my phone for four months and this week I could have been the guest on every talk show known to college basketball because of what happened in LA,” he said. “You have to be able to handle that. It’s so much about the next day.”

He said he is concerned, needing to get that grit back or at least the things that made Arizona hungry to get to this point.

Plus one

And, there was this. Lost in all the commotion of the team not playing that well was the fact that Miller won his 100th Pac-12 game of his career.

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