USA TODAY Sports’ Dan Wolken recaps how one of two programs that have displayed consistent excellence finally will get to play in a Final Four.
USA TODAY Sports
SAN JOSE — Arizona coach Sean Millerwas pointing fingers after his second-seeded Wildcats lost to No. 11 Xavier 73-71 Thursday night at the SAP Center.
He pointed them mostly at himself, suggesting he was outcoached by his counterpart, Xavier’s Chris Mack.
“He had his way with us tonight,’’ Miller said of Mack, one of Miller’s former assistants. “He called plays, after timeouts, underneath out of bounds, he got his players some great shots.’’
A couple of minutes into Miller’s postgame press conference, while detailing his team’s struggles, he said, “Equally disappointed in myself.’’
“You know,’’ he continued, “our team never really ever established great confidence against the zone. And I think in some ways that was the reason, defensively, that we weren’t as good as we usually are or maybe better than we needed to be, because the game never really felt good.
“And that’s on me.’’
Miller also said he was to blame for offensive struggles. The Wildcats shot 43.5% from the field and 25.9% from three-point range.
“Your job when you get to this area, when you get to this level of college basketball, your best players gotta be confident,’’ Miller said. “We have to get them shots. I don’t care what defense they’re playing — 1-3-1, 2-3, man-to-man — and I don’t feel we did that tonight. And that’s probably the worst feeling you can have as a coach.’’
The all-too-familiar feeling, of disappointment, for Arizona. The Wildcats, after all, had envisioned a trip to the Final Four for the first time since 2001 the year it will be played in their home state. The games will be played in in Glendale, Ariz., less than a two-hour drive from Arizona’s campus in Tucson.
Miller still has yet to reach the Final Four.
“Well, it’s never easy when it ends, especially if you have a great team or had a great season,’’ he said. “I think it’s always important, especially as the leader of our team and program, that we define our own success. And I think if you’re a team that is 32-5, you win both the Pac-12 regular season and also the Pac-12 Tournament, and our journey ends in the Sweet 16, it’s hard to look at that as not getting it done or failure.
“But our goal and aspiration is always to challenge for a Final Four and get there. And we pulled up short.”
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SWEET 16