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Arizona’s Sean Miller is above the NCAA Tournament curve

Arizona head coach Sean Miller looks on during first half action of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

In nine seasons, Arizona head coach Sean Miller has developed six first-round draft picks and made three Elite Eight appearances.

Yet the Final Four continues to elude him.

Although Miller has never coached on the final weekend of the college basketball season, his record in the NCAA Tournament stacks up well against the field.

According to Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight, Miller is ranked No. 31 out of over 500 current and former coaches when it comes to exceeding their win expectations in March.

Using the Elo rating, coaches are listed based on their average seed, record, expected wins and the number of wins above or below the expected total. Expected wins come from pregame probabilities, also a product of Elo.

Based on those figures and incorporating appearances with Xavier and Arizona, Miller has made the tournament with an average seed of 5.1 and holds a record of 19-11. In that time he was only projected to win 16.7 games.

His 2.3 wins over the expected total is a higher mark than that of several notable coaches, including Dean Smith, Lou Carnesecca and Jim Valvano.

Jim Boeheim of Syracuse leads the pack with 9.7 more wins than he was projected. Boeheim is 54-25 in the NCAA Tournament over his 42-year career and is at the top of this list for his ability to win as a lower seed, most recently reaching the Final Four as a No. 10 seed in 2016 and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 11 seed in 2018.

The Arizona Wildcats have not played in the Final Four since 2001. Although Miller has been successful in March by the numbers, his next step as a coach remains an elusive one.

Sean Miller’s NCAA Tournament results

2005-06 – No. 14 seed Xavier lost to No. 3 seed Gonzaga in the round of 64.

2006-07 – No. 9 seed Xavier beat No. 8 seed BYU and lost to No. 1 seed Ohio State in the round of 32.

2007-08 – No. 3 seed Xavier beat No. 14 seed Georgia, No. 6 seed Purdue and No. 7 seed West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen before losing to No. 1 seed UCLA in the Elite Eight.

2008-09 – No. 4 seed Xavier beat No. 13 seed Portland State, No. 12 seed Wisconsin and lost to No. 1 seed Pittsburgh in the Sweet Sixteen.

2010-11 – No. 5 seed Arizona beat No. 12 seed Memphis, No. 4 seed Texas, No. 1 seed Duke and lost to No. 3 seed Connecticut in the Elite Eight.

2012-13 – No. 6 seed Arizona beat No. 11 seed Belmont, No. 14 seed Harvard and lost to No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen.

2013-14 – No. 1 seed Arizona beat No. 16 seed Weber State, No. 8 seed Gonzaga, No. 4 seed San Diego State and lost to No. 2 seed Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

2014-15 – No. 2 seed Arizona beat No. 15 seed Texas Southern, No. 10 seed Ohio State, No. 6 seed Xavier and lost to No. 1 seed Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

2015-16 – No. 6 seed Arizona lost to No. 11 seed Wichita State in the round of 64.

2016-17 – No. 2 seed Arizona beat No. 15 seed North Dakota, No. 7 seed Saint Mary’s and lost to No. 11 seed Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen.

2017-18 – No. 4 seed Arizona lost to No. 13 seed Buffalo in the round of 64.


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