By AW Butler
An adjective is a word that describes something. It gives definition to other things, allowing the reader or listener to gain a better understanding of what’s happening.
There are no adjectives to properly convey what’s happening with Sean Miller’s Wildcats. It’s been called improbable, amazing, unbelievable, miraculous, ridiculous, unexpected, and stunning. Arizona’s run to the Elite Eight has been all of that. And then some.
What many would call avenging the loss of the 2001 title game, Arizona beat the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils by sixteen points. No acrobatic and-ones, no controversial blocked shots, no last second unease. The Wildcats stood toe-to-toe with champs and knocked them out.
As Duke began to pull away from Derrick Williams (no other Wildcats were playing in the first half), Sean Miller called a time out. The score was 31-20 and the Blue Devils had just rattled off five points in less than thirty seconds. The game appeared to be getting out of control. Images of Mike Dunleavy’s three-point barrage in ’01 flashed before Wildcat eyes.
But something was said in that huddle. Something clicked for the Wildcats during that timeout. From that point on – the full timeout was taken with 6:14 remaining in the first half – the fifth seeded Wildcats outscored the top seeded Blue Devils, 73-46.
But let’s get serious, from that point on, Arizona out-everythinged Duke. Rebounding, steals, shooting, effort, dare we say it was nasty?
It was a level we hadn’t seen before from this Arizona team. This team has won thirty games, making them just the fourth Arizona team to do so, which is remarkable given the program’s rich history. No one expected this to be one of the best Arizona teams of all time. It doesn’t even look right typing that, but with one more win there will be no argument.
Williams was clearly the best player on the floor but, more importantly, Arizona was the better team on the floor.
“It’s us. It’s together. You got to be a team in every sense of the word,” Miller said to his group after the game. Indeed they were. Nine different players scored for Arizona, each point seemingly more back breaking than the last.
The second unit – the group that may never have made it to the University of Arizona – not only maintained a second half lead, they extended it. When you have a second five that can build a lead against the defending national champions, good things can happen. Big things can happen.
And big things are happening. Arizona is headed to the Elite Eight for the ninth time in school history.
“The Elite Eight is great, but we’re not looking to stop right there. We’re trying to win a national championship.” Hold up. Did Derrick Williams just say “national championship?”
And why not? While no words can describe what has transpired in Tulsa and Anaheim one word has been consistent: wins. The Wildcats are collecting them and advancing – all that matters when you’re playing in March.
When Arizona takes to the court of the Honda Center Saturday afternoon, they’ll be one of eight teams vying to be one of four, gunning for a shot to be one of two, in order to be the one.
So call it whatever you want, but this is a ton of fun.