Tag Archives: Sean Miller

Fuel For The Critics

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Sean Miller

In eight years as the head basketball coach of the Arizona Wildcats, Sean Miller has compiled a record of 220-66 with four Pac-12 Conference Championships. Six of the last seven years have seen Arizona make the NCAA Tournament as they are one of the premier basketball programs in the nation, but there is one thing has continued to allude both Miller and his Wildcats.

Arizona’s last trip to the Final Four came in 2001 when they were the runner-up to the national champion Duke Blue Devils. Since then Arizona has gone on to remain as a hotbed for future NBA talent, but they’ve been unable to get back to the Final Four.

Former Arizona head basketball coach Lute Olson led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2003 and 2005, but he was denied his sixth trip to the Final Four and fifth with the Cats. After Olson retired in 2007, Arizona’s program took a step back before they lured Miller away from the Xavier Musketeers in 2009.

In five years with Xavier, Miller showed his ability to lead a program as he got the Musketeers to the Elite Eight in 2008. It didn’t take Miller that long to get Arizona back on the national scene as he led them to the Elite Eight in 2011. But heartbreak would await the Cats in the West Regional Final where they fell to the Connecticut Huskies 65-63. After failing to make the NCAA Tournament in 2012, the Wildcats would storm back in 2013. This time Arizona would lose by three points in the Sweet Sixteen to the Ohio State Buckeyes. 2014 and 2015 would each see the Cats make the West Regional Final. But each time Arizona was denied a trip to the Final Four.

This season the Wildcats were projected to once again have a strong team as they began the season ranked tenth in the Associated Press Poll and they lived up to the hype. Arizona went 16-2 in the Pac-12 Conference with their only losses coming against the UCLA Bruins and Oregon Ducks. The Cats would also go on to win the Pac-12 Tournament for the second time in the last three years. The Cats finished the regular season with a record of 30-4 which earned them the second seed in the West Region for the NCAA Tournament. And although that the Gonzaga Bulldogs were the top seed in the region, Arizona was still the favorite to advance to the Final Four.

The Wildcats would easily take care of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the first round before they survived against the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the second round. And with the West Regional taking place in San Jose, California, the Wildcats were expected to coast over Xavier who was an 11-seed.

With just over two minutes left in the contest, Arizona had a 71-64 lead and they appeared to be set to meet Gonzaga in the West Regional Final. However the Wildcats would not score again while Xavier would as the Musketeers finished the game on a 9-0 run to stun Arizona 73-71. But unlike Arizona’s other stumbles under Miller in the NCAA Tournament, this one stings a little more since this was arguably the Wildcats best path to the Final Four since 2001.

Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen

The Wildcats had a team comprised of future NBA players such as sophomore guard Allonzo Trier and freshman forward Lauri Markkanen leading the way, but they were unable to reach the Final Four which will be played in Glendale, Arizona which is just two hours away from their campus in Tuscon. Now including Miller’s time at Xavier, he is now 0-4 in the Elite Eight, and in spite of the fact that he is one of best coaches in the nation, he cannot shake the fact that a trip to the Final Four is still not on his resume.

However Miller can take solace in knowing that it took some of the game’s best coaches a long time to reach the Final Four and eventually win a championship. Jay Wright became the head basketball coach at Villanova in 2001 and it took him until 2009 to make his first trip to the Final Four. And after years of disappointments in the tourney, Villanova was finally able to break through and win the national championship last year. It took former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun 13 years to break through and win a national championship as he had previously gone 0-3 in the Elite Eight.

There’s a possibility that Markkanen and Trier could be headed to the NBA Draft, but Miller has done an excellent job of recruiting since he took over in Tuscon. The Wildcats have another solid class coming in next year which includes center DeAndre Ayton as this will once again make Arizona one of the top teams in the nation. The abrupt ending to a stellar season for Arizona will sting, however hope always springs eternal.

Sports-reference.com

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Sean Miller Is Still Searching For That Final Four Bid

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Sean Miller

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.

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