It was tough for head coach Adia Barnes and the players after Arizona women’s basketball lost in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. It was even tougher because they had dropped the final two games of the regular season, which likely will keep them from hosting the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The major drivers of that dissatisfaction are the expectations Barnes has for herself and the program. She’s trying to find the balance between being proud of where they are as a program and pushing to take the next step.
“I was telling someone the other day, I’m like, we’re at the point in this program where before it was nail biting,” Barnes said. “Like, are we in a tournament? Are we in the tournament? Now we’re at the point where we’re in the tournament, it’s like are we hosting, are we hosting? So, it’s just...I’m upset about the Pac-12 tournament, disappointed, but then I should be happy because we still have another chance to play. But I think it’s hard when you’re not happy how we did at the Pac-12 tournament, just kind of down about that, but then thinking of where this program was when I got here, it wasn’t even a thought.”
Also on her mind the past few days has been pride in what these particular players have achieved this season even if they didn’t reach all of their goals in the regular season.
This is an exciting week with selection Sunday!I am so proud of this team. We are battle tested.I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Thank you Tucson for keeping us on top nationally and #1 in the Pac in attendance. Get ready to hit the road with us next week!! Bear Down!— ADIA BARNES COPPA (@AdiaBarnes) March 7, 2023
Winning a championship is the ultimate drive. Barnes says she doesn’t want to be that coach or that program that gets to one title game and doesn’t advance beyond that or even return to that point again. For both her and her players, it’s time to set aside the regular season. There are still great things they can achieve this year.
“I think we have the mindset of going on a run here,” said fifth-year senior Jade Loville. “And so, I think that with me being on this side and having that opportunity this year, it’s just a blessing and I’m so excited to get started. I think we let...the regular season go, and we move forward. It’s a whole new season. We have a brand-new opportunity to kind of rebrand ourselves and really do what Arizona women’s basketball is supposed to do. And I think we’re all really rejuvenated, re-energized, and we’re really excited to see where we’re gonna end up in a few days.”
As Barnes noted, even in the season when they made their run to the Final Four, the Wildcats were not playing great prior to the NCAA Tournament.
“If I look back at that year with the championship, we were kind of imploding at this point,” Barnes said. “So, it’s something about this time of year where...I just I think it’s a stressful moment, but I’m telling the players there’s no pressure. There’s not a pressure like someone has to lose for us to get to the tournament. We have a chance to redeem ourselves and this is the fun time of year.”
On the court, Loville thinks the team’s communication needs to improve.
“I was watching the game,” Loville said. “It was really hard to watch in Vegas because I think a lot of the things that we saw were miscommunications, lack of just drive—and I hate to say that because we really do want to get after it. We have a lot of passion. But I think it was just a lot of lack of focus. And I think those are the things that we need to really come together and figure out. I think there’s times on the court where we’re not communicating, we’re not playing off of each other. We’re not having that team chemistry and I think in these past couple days with practice, that’s been our main focus. Shots are going to fall. Whatever. That’s going to happen. But just having the team chemistry is something that we really needed to focus on. So, I think just all coming together and having the mindset of doing it all as a team and not individuals I think is our biggest key moving forward.”
The team will find out its fate on Selection Sunday. The team will gather to watch the selection show, which airs at 6 p.m. MST on ESPN. Charlie Creme at ESPN currently has the Wildcats as a No. 6 seed playing in Baton Rouge and slated to play third-seeded LSU if both advance to the second round.