Time: 6:30 p.m. MST
Sean Miller has been upset before.
During his brief tenure with the Arizona Wildcats, I've seen him begin postgame press conferences talking about how poorly his team finished a 20-point blowout. I've seen him take a loss as nothing more than the other team playing incredible basketball.
So when you read his comments during a midweek press conference -- days after a painful loss to Oregon -- it shows that there's never been a more frustrating and perhaps stressful time for Miller during his brief period coaching in Tucson. Against the Utah Utes tonight in Salt Lake City, the Wildcats have a chance to turn it around, and against a 4-13 team (1-4 Pac-12) coached by a first-year head coach in Larry Krystkowiak, it should be a solid opportunity to find their fundamentals.
Well, the Wildcats need to use it to find themselves, really. Those days of wearing "attack"-inscribed practice gear? Having that mentality was a thing of last year, and Arizona is looking to find it again.Here's just a snippet of how gloomily sarcastic Miller was in his weekly presser, per the Arizona Daily Star:
"Layups - we want to make them. We don't want to travel. We want to catch with two hands and identify that our jersey will be blue and we want to throw to that blue jersey, not the white one. I know Colorado sometimes wears gray so I'll make sure to tell our guys that gray and blue is different and we want to throw to that blue team."
While the uniforms of the Utes supposedly won't be as confusing, the Utes have shown inklings of not being completely terrible, at least not all of the time. In the past three games, they've had the task of facing the best three teams in the Pac-12 that combined have a 14-3 in-conference record as of Thursday.
Utah lost to a Washington team by four points, then fell to Stanford by three points the next outing. But they're coming off an 81-45 blasting at the hands of the California Golden Bears and also lost to Colorado 73-33 earlier in their Pac-12 schedule. Furthermore, Utah will play Arizona without senior point guard Josh Watkins, who was kicked off the team for failing to meet the demands of Krystkowiak.
What do they have left?
7-foot, 230 pound center Jason Washburn is the only double-digit scorer remaining on the roster, and he'll now lead the team with 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
But for the Wildcats (12-6, 3-2 Pac-12), this one is about themselves more than their opponent.
As Bruce Pascoe has written leading into the game, fixing turnover issues is Arizona's biggest concern. It hasn't helped that veteran leaders Kyle Fogg and Solomon Hill are giving it up at an alarming rate, nor does it calm Miller than he has an all-freshman backcourt -- starting point guard Josiah Turner is only tied for third on the team with 2.1 assists per game and has an equal 2.1 turnovers per game.
Tonight's game against the Utes is one of the few left where Arizona has a clear talent advantage, and the Wildcats need to do more than get a win out of it.
Finding a confident and attacking identity without mistakes tops the list of things to do, and Arizona is running out of time to do it.