Sean Miller is known for speaking his mind. He doesn’t gabble in coach speak and he doesn’t tend to hyperbolize. In a day and age where coaches talk like politicians behind the mic, Miller is one of the few exceptions in the game of college basketball.
All to say that Miller’s comments today should not be taken with a grain of salt. And for Arizona fans, that’s worrisome.
“For us realistically, we’re not that good of a team right now,” said Miller at his first presser since the Red Blue Game. “We’re nowhere near where we would have been a year ago at this time. And I can see us getting off to a rocky start in the month of November especially with Maui and a couple of games that we have and ditto for December.”
That’s not what Wildcats fans want to hear from the head coach. Not in a year where Arizona is projected to a consensus top-three team and a favorite to make the Final Four. A year where nothing short of a national championship will satisfy a craving fan-base.
“I don’t know if we’ve had any person enter our gym through the first 24 or 25 practices and tell me that we’re a good team,” said Miller. “I’ve had probably as many as 30 people tell me that either that we’re not as good as everybody said we were, or that they can see that certainly we have the makings of something good down the road.”
In summary, this team is a work of progress that’s currently behind schedule.
That’s the bad news. The good news, of course, is that it’s only early November and Miller is just as respected for speaking his mind as he is for getting his teams to peak at the right time.
Talent shouldn’t be the issue. Similar to last year’s Kentucky team that struggled early, middle, and late in the season, Arizona is loaded at every position.
The problem rests in getting everyone to buy into the program, to honor the process, as Miller likes to say. Right now, it doesn’t sound like the Wildcats have the type of on-the-court chemistry required to be an elite defensive team.
Miller also made multiple references to the absence of Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, particularly in regards to the leadership the two brought. It’s not hard to read in between the lines there. Somebody, whether it’s TJ McConnell, Brandon Ashley, or Stanley Johnson, needs to fill that void.
Once again, it’s far too early to get overly concerned. But it’s also not a good sign that three days away from Arizona’s first game, an exhibition versus Cal Poly Pomona, no one has claimed the role of leader, at least in Miller’s eyes.
It’s unlikely that fans or the media will lower expectations based on a few quotes, but if one thing was clear from Miller’s press conference it’s that the Wildcats will look far from a national title contender when they play in front of the public for the first time on Sunday.