This team is not quite right.
Yes, it’s a work in progress and yes this is year two of a brand new regime but this 10-2 team has a problem far worse than not boxing out or poor jumpers.
Not to say that the team we saw jump to a 7-1 start was an imposter – that was what Arizona could be – but the team’s performance in the last four games and the subsequent media bits from Miller have led me to believe there are trust issues.
Allow me to preface this by stating that this is not a fire-and-brimstone, apocalyptic column.
But a team that responds to their coach publically calling their time in Utah an “ass whoopin” and an “across the board disappointment” by putting up 63 points against a Big Sky opponent and making no adjustments against a zone defense for the third consecutive game has some problems.
The problem/issue/disease is a big, bad case of the “I can’ts.” The age-old dilemma of thinking you can’t when indeed you can. The haunting conundrum of self-doubt in the face of certainty. That tiny little man in the back of your head that says, “Ya ain’t gonna do it.”
An errant shot here, a turnover there and suddenly, the symptoms of the I can’ts become overwhelming. That bad shot turns into a bad game turns into a bad season turns into Mustafa Shakur. All the talent in the world is worthless without knowing you can. Death by the I can’ts.
Call him Doctor Miller, McHoops, or simply coach, however you see it, this is Sean Miller’s problem to solve.
The book is out that his team can’t score against the zone. Can he nip that in the bud before they simply see a 2-3 zone and are defeated? He has some great athletes who can shoot and defend. Can he convince them of it?
Fear not, Miller has an MD in this stuff and he’ll cure many cases of the I can’ts before they become fatal.
But the passive response to his post-Jimmer shellacking was disappointing. It was indicative of a team that was uncomfortable rising to a challenge. It looked like a team that didn’t think it could.
So on the heels of three disappointments, the NC State game was encouraging. The Wildcats walked into a hostile environment against a young team capable of being very disruptive. But winning on the road was not the most impressive accomplishment. The greatest take away from the NC State game was that Arizona responded to its inability to rebound. They responded to their poor perimeter shooting. They responded when the Wolfpack cut the lead to two late.
Sunday was by no stretch Arizona’s best game. They shot just 41% from the field and 24% from beyond the arc; both numbers the ‘Cats bettered against NAU and Cal State-Fullerton. Arizona was outrebounded and even yielded 18 offensive rebounds. It was not a pretty game. Bad shooting and second opportunities are confidence drains. Propagators of the I can’ts. But Arizona won Sunday’s ball game despite these shortcomings.
They won because they realized they could.