The past 11 years have seen Arizona Wildcats head basketball coach Sean Miller emerge as one of college basketball’s top coaches. For five years, Miller was the head basketball coach of the Xavier Musketeers. At Xavier, Miller posted a record of 120-47 and he led the Musketeers to just the school’s second trip to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2008. The job that Miller did at Xavier caught the eye of Arizona who hired him in 2009. After posting a record of 16-15 in his first season in Tucson, Miller got the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2011. But in the West Regional Final, Connecticut Huskies guard Kemba Walker was too much for Arizona to overcome. In 2014, the Wildcats would once again reach the West Regional Final, but the Wisconsin Badgers and their power forward Frank Kaminsky thwarted a chance for the Wildcats to cut down the nets. This year Miller and the Wildcats would once again reach the Elite Eight out of the West Region. And once more it was the Badgers that sent Arizona home one game short of reaching the Final Four. Now unfortunately for Miller he is being looked at as a guy that cannot get over the hump.
Miller is one of the best recruiters in college basketball as he has once again made Arizona one of the top college basketball programs in the nation. The Wildcats have won the Pac-12 Conference Championship three times under Miller and he has restored the program to what it was under Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson.
But the inability to reach the Final Four is something that will hang over Miller for now and he can look to this year’s Final Four as motivation. For Duke Blue Devils head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, it wasn’t until his sixth season at Duke until he reached the Final Four. Current Kentucky Wildcats head basketball coach John Calipari was in his eighth season coaching the Massachusetts Minutemen before he reached his first Final Four. And it took Wisconsin head basketball coach Bo Ryan 13 years with the Badgers before he reached the Final Four.
Entering next season the Wildcats will once again be in contention as one of the top basketball teams in the country. The Wildcats will lose point guard T.J. McConnell to graduation while the high-flying forward Stanley Johnson will more than likely be a one-and-done player and opt for the NBA Draft. Arizona will still have a deep frontcourt with center Kaleb Tarczewski, along with forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley. Miller continues to sign some of the best high school basketball talent that the West Coast has to offer as the Wildcats class of incoming freshman will be highlighted by point guard Justin Simon, shooting guard Allonzo Trier, and small forward Ray Smith.
The loss to Wisconsin will sting for Arizona and their fan base; especially since it was the Badgers that also sent the Wildcats home in 2014. But under Miller, Arizona has consistently found a way to escape the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and continue to play when more eyes are watching. Now Miller must find a way to cut down the nets and add a Final Four berth to his resume.