Despite Arizona’s long and storied tradition, the good ol’ days seem so long ago. Many weren’t sure how long it would take to restore the tradition that Olson left behind.
After a couple mediocre seasons in which Arizona still managed to keep The Streak alive, former athletic director Jim Livengood made one final move before he rode off into the (Las Vegas) sunset. Sean Miller was brought in to turn around a fading power.
After an unexpected Elite Eight run in just Miller’s second year, off the court issues and injuries hindered Arizona’s potential for success in 2011-12. Falling short of the NCAA Tournament was a disappointment but it didn’t change anything that would become of the future.
But one key similarity fans many might have noticed from last year’s Red/Blue Game and this year’s is Miller’s emphasis on keeping past players involved with the program, making it a point to be a “players program.” Not only is it a very good recruiting strategy, but it also brings back the fond memories that different generations shared with past teams and individual players. Additionally, it keeps the new generations informed on how far the success of the program goes back and what the standard for the program is going forward.
The hype this year is unbelievable. There have been predictions of a Final Four appearance and even a couple analysts are picking this team to win a national championship. Although it may not have felt like it took four years to rebuild a winning team, the Arizona Basketball tradition is back and here to stay. With the way the new players have bought into Miller’s program, you just get the feeling that everyone is on the same page, and up to the challenge of making their fans proud.
Much of the focus of this year’s team will be on the incoming freshman class – one that features three very talented big men. Of those three, Grant Jerrett has emerged as a likely starter and could very well make the biggest impact as a freshman. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski will also provide Arizona with height that it didn’t have the past season.
As with any successful team, there needs to be a core of leaders who can step up when adversity strikes. Arizona has those in seniors Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, and Mark Lyons.
Nick Johnson is entering his second season and will be relied on for his athletic ability. His 3 point shot seems to be coming along nicely as well. Angelo Chol looks like a Greek god with his chiseled figure and looks to compete for a significant role.
The future is now and McKale will be one of the toughest places to play in the nation with sell-out crowds.
They’re all in. So the question is, are you?