Let me start by saying the following: I loved this team. I love Sean Miller. T.J. McConnell is quite possibly my favorite Wildcat of all time. I'm proud of all the accomplishment of this past season. I am thrilled we got the monkey off our back and won the Pac-12 Tournament. I am ecstatic that for the second year in a row we did not lose a game at home. Trust me on this, I have a great perspective of the many incredibly achievements from this season and I will always be grateful for how hard this team played. But with that fluffy intro out of the way let's get to the point of this article: This season was a failure.
Success and failure can only be defined by two things, expectations and relativity. You can succeed or fail only if you accomplished what you set out to do (your expectations) or if you succeeded or failed in relation to others around you. These metrics define success or failure and the simple truth here is that Arizona did not meet or exceed expectations nor were we successful in relation to the other programs we strived to battle this year. Thus, despite all the good things that happened, I don't know how any true Arizona fan can call this season an overwhelming success.
I actually began writing this almost immediately after the game but I knew I had to take a few days to calm myself before publishing anything potentially stupid. However, as the Final Four draws ever nearer, I realized that after a few days of sitting shiva for this season, my conclusion did not change. The outpouring of support for Sean Miller's quote was a little baffling to me. Miller tweeted that people trying to claim that this season was a failure should 'go cheer for ASU'. I love the guy and I know why he said what he said, but it does not make you a bad fan to be disappointed by how this season ended. Our expectations are sky-high primarily because of the incredible work that Miller has done and the sad reality is that this year, we didn't live up to those expectations. Never forget that Arizona's season this year, while a failure by our lofty standards, would have been the best season in the history of Sun Devils basketball.
I believe Sean Miller had one of his most impressive coaching years ever this season and his first six years in the desert have been truly incredible. We are lucky to have him and I hope he stays a Wildcat for life or at least until he let's TJ take over as Head Coach 25 years from now. I am still so very excited and optimistic about the future of this program but the reality is that having these feelings and believing this season was a failure are not incompatible. Being a die-hard fan does not mean you have to always see everything through rose-colored glasses.
I wrote at the beginning of the year that the thing I hate the most in sports is when fans of a true championship contender console each other by saying how grateful they are for having such a wonderful season even when they didn't reach their goal. ‘Great season' and ‘We'll get ‘em next year' make me sick when this year was our year. I understand the need to look on the bright side after a crushing loss but the way I see it, there should be no consolation in not succeeding. This was a Final Four or bust season and we busted. The last two seasons the championship window has been wide, wide open and for now, it appears to be slammed shut for at least one year. I do not know when it will open again and that's the scary part. Knowing that the stacked and incredibly hard-working and selfless teams we have had the pleasure of watching the past two seasons couldn't get it done is really depressing.
I realize that Wisconsin would have beat anyone in the country last Saturday with the way they shot the ball, including Kentucky. Kaminsky and Dekker were so good that it was unfair and no one should criticize Arizona's effort. Our guys played hard, Miller tried everything and we actually played overall a pretty great game in a lot of ways but it was all for naught as we ran into a team playing at a level they have never played at before. I do not blame Miller or anyone for the loss on Saturday but I do not think that gives this team a free pass for not making the Final Four. No one defines how you will get to the Final Four in the preseason, the expectation is just that you will get there. And we didn't. No one on the team, in the media or on the message boards during the preseason ever said, ‘this is a Final Four team unless we play Wisconsin in which case we should all be happy we made the Elite Eight'. This is a results based business and we didn't get our desired result.
You can say we got unlucky with the draw and unlucky with how well Wisconsin played but the fact is that we contributed to some of that bad luck. By dropping games to inferior opponents like UNLV and ASU, we played ourselves out of a 1 seed which could have kept us away from Wisconsin until the Final Four. And even with that said, it isn't unlucky to play a really good team in the Elite Eight, it's exactly what should be expected. We certainly have had our share of terrible luck this season such as when BYU somehow beat Gonzaga in Spokane to cost them a 1 seed in the West, but you can't always blame luck alone. No other program in the country in recent years has routinely gotten as far as us and not been able to finish the job. Luck by its very nature cannot have such consistency; consistency is the antonym of luck as far as I am concerned.
I don't mean to kick us while we are down and I don't mean to disparage this team that we all loved. All I am trying to say is that it does not make you a fair-weather fan or a bad fan to say that this season, in a vacuum, was a failure. It doesn't change my appreciation for this team, this coach or this program and I already can't wait to see McKale rocking again next year as the Cats get back to work. I love being a fan of this team and I hope to cheer them all the way to Houston next season, which given expectations at the moment, would mean the season was an overwhelming success. And amid all this depression let's end on a high note -- Frank Kaminsky is graduating this year and will be out of our lives forever. Thank the Lord.