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Arizona basketball: Wildcats facing a “high pressure point” in their schedule

And not just because they face Gonzaga on Saturday

2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Santa Clara v Arizona Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are in the midst of a “high pressure point” in their schedule, head coach Sean Miller said Tuesday.

The Wildcats (5-1) host Texas Southern (4-2) on Wednesday night, then travel to Los Angeles to face the No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-0) in STAPLES Center on Saturday afternoon.

But it’s not just the opponents on the Wildcats’ schedule that make this a difficult stretch; it’s the busiest time of the year for Arizona’s players from an academic standpoint as well.

“(Our players) have a lot going on,” Miller said. “They have final papers, preparation for final exams, and in some cases there’s always those classes that finish earlier than others and there’s a number of our players that will finish maybe one class as the weekend approaches.

“I think the pressure point of eligibility, graduation, finishing this semester in a responsible way, coupled with these two games and the aftermath of learning from our experience last week in Las Vegas, no question that — it may not feel that way to our fans but — these two weeks here are sometimes the most stressful two weeks of a school year for our players because it’s the most pressure they feel.”

Yes, even more so than when Pac-12 play and the NCAA Tournament are in full swing in the spring semester.

“At Christmas time they have both (final exams and basketball) going on, so we’re working around the clock with these guys to make sure that we’re supporting them, and that they’re doing what they’re supposed to, that they’re managing their time, their energy and their schedule properly,” Miller said.

Some players do have lighter academic loads in the fall to combat the time constraints, but for some — like Kadeem Allen — the opposite is true.

“Each one of them is different,” Miller said. “Kadeem Allen is the one player — he’s a senior — he’s the closest one to graduation. He feels pressure in a different way because he needs a couple of these grades to go in the books here and when they do, his next semester will be what you want it to be as a senior and that is…I think he has to take two classes, but only needs one to graduate.”

As Allen can attest to, the Wildcats have a jam-packed schedule as the semester comes to an end and a matchup with a top-10 Gonzaga team draws near.

“It’s a high pressure point for our players,” Miller said.


Up next

No. 16 Arizona tips off against Texas Southern on Wednesday. Game time is schedule for 7 p.m. MST and it will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

The Wildcats then face No. 8 Gonzaga on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. MST on ESPN.


You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire