Sean Miller and Nick Johnson took part in the Pac-12’s Media Day in the conference’s San Francisco studios. There they discussed an array of topics on the upcoming season, foremost the media’s pick of Arizona as the runaway favorite to win the conference.
While neither Miller nor Johnson tried to hide the gaudy expectations being placed on the Wildcats – Arizona was ranked 5th in the USA Today Coaches Poll – the two gave a nice selling job for the Pac-12.
“This is my fifth season as the coach at Arizona and I think that I can make this statement very clear: that I believe that it’s the deepest conference that I have coached in,” said Miller.
“And I’ll also tell you that we’re not experienced enough to be head and shoulders above the field. We have a lot of parts, and I think that if we have some health on our side and some good fortune, we might be able to get there and be a special team down the road.”
Johnson was also quick to spread praise to Arizona’s conference competitors. “There’s definitely a big group,” he said. “You got Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Colorado, Cal, there’s numerous teams this year that are all going to be at the top and challenge for the championship.”
However, there is a reason why Arizona was picked to win the conference by 21 of 23 media members and much of it lies in the play of Johnson himself. The junior will be asked to take on more of a leadership role with such a young team and he has gotten off to a good start, immersing Aaron Gordon in the day-to-day ways of college life.
“When he first got here this summer,” said Johnson of the star freshman, “he actually sent me a text and he just told me anything you need or anything that you want to tell me to help ease in my transition, go for it.”
“And coming from a McDonald’s All-American and that highly rated of a player, I knew right away what kind of a person we had in him. So he’s a joy to be around and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Johnson was also complimentary of TJ McConnell, who he will be sharing the backcourt with this year.
“He is a true point guard in every sense, “said Johnson. “He literally will pass up a layup to get you an open shot or however you want to say it.”
And while Miller spent much of the press conference picking out reasons for why Arizona may not achieve ultimate success, whether it be the strength of the conference or the Wildcats’ lack of experience, there is no getting around the amount of talent and cohesion that consists in the McKale locker room.
“I think we have a group of guys that are really committed to each other,” said Miller. “We have a team that’s close and I believe that as a group we’re a team that recognizes how difficult it is to win, to win championships.”