It would be completely understandable if Sean Miller had never said another nice thing about Arizona after it fired him last April. Instead, he might be one of the Wildcats’ biggest supporters, so much so he has his former team winning it all next month in New Orleans.
Speaking on the The Field of 68 podcast, with Jeff Goodman along with brother Archie Miller, Miller predicted the UA to beat Kentucky in the national title game, which would be a rematch of the 1997 final when Arizona won its only championship.
“You could say, ‘oh, you’re just saying that because you were the coach last year,’ Miller said. “I could easily not even bring it up. I’m just calling how I really see it and feel.”
Miller, whose name is starting to pop up for various job openings—The Athletic is reporting he’s high on South Carolina’s list after it fired Frank Martin on Monday after 10 seasons—cited Arizona’s ability to both defend the 2-point shot well and be able to score almost at will inside as a big reason why he expects it to claim the championship. He has the UA beating Villanova in the South Region final, then knocking off Kansas in the Final Four.
Goodman and Archie saw differently, with the former (a UA alum) taking Illinois to win the South and Archie picking Tennessee.
Part of Goodman’s reasoning was the status of point guard Kerr Kriisa, who sprained his right ankle in the final minute of the Pac-12 quarterfinal win over Stanford. UA coach Tommy Lloyd said Sunday there’s a “real chance” Kriisa will play in the NCAA tourney, whether that be in Friday’s first round game against either Bryant or Wright State or later on.
Goodman went so far as to speculate that Kriisa being on the bench, without a boot and standing most of the game, during the Pac-12 final against UCLA, was a publicity stunt to help convince the NCAA Tournament selection committee that he’s okay and Arizona still deserves a No. 1 seed.
Miller didn’t take that bait, instead looking at Kriisa’s injury as having the potential to be an overall positive for Arizona.
“The best thing that happened to Arizona in the last week is that they had to overcome some adversity,” he said. “They’ve had pretty smooth sailing when it comes to COVID, when it comes to injuries. Other than Azuolas Tubelis, who sat out and had to play through an ankle situation for a couple of weeks, they’ve been pretty much the same from start to finish, and now they get hit with this untimely injury. But how they responded, I think, says it all.
“Oftentimes when that injured player returns, he almost returns an overall deeper and better team. I like Arizona getting to the Final Four. I think those guys play for each other. I think they have a style and a system that has beaten teams with their defense and their offense. I think they have as much firepower as any team in the tournament. They’ve been the most consistent team in the country, from start to finish.”
Arizona has the second-best odds to win the national title, per DraftKings Sportsbook, at +650, as well as to make the Final Four (+150).