The Arizona Wildcats mens basketball program is coming off their best [long] weekend in over a decade.
On Saturday, the #15 Wildcats (25-6, 14-4) wrapped up the Pac-10 regular season title by defeating the Oregon Ducks 90-82 in front of a sold out McKale Center crowd. On Monday, Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams was honored as Pac-10 Player of the Year while Sean Miller was recognized as Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
The last time Arizona held all of these crowns was 1998 when Lute Olson and Mike Bibby led the Wildcats to a regular season conference championship.
Miller threw caution into the wind on Tuesday afternoon during his weekly press conference.
“We don’t have room for error, not many teams do,” he said. “Our only chance to win the tournament is to be focused like we have been all along. A lot of teams in our conference are playing well right now.”
The Wildcats will begin their attempt to finish off their regular season title with a conference tournament title Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s opening round game between Stanford and Oregon State.
The Wildcats swept the Cardinal by a combined 19 points while they split with the Beavers, losing in Corvallis by a point but winning in Tucson by 11 not a week ago.
While the rest of the country may be down on the Pac-10, thinking Arizona will not face much of a challenge in Los Angeles, Miller and his squad know the work has just begun.
“It is an opportunity for anybody to get into the tournament, you never know who is really going to make that push to get the W…it is March Madness,” said Arizona sophomore forward Solomon Hill.
Miller had a similar sentiment, saying the team cannot afford to give a poor effort.
“Never play in this conference tournament with one foot in,” he said.
As far as a game plan for the weekend is concerned, do not expect the Wildcats to change much.
“If we are going to lose this weekend, let’s lose doing the things the way we have done them all season long,” Miller said. “If it doesn’t work out, thank goodness we have another tournament to play in.”
Miller did take a second to talk about the Wildcats and the NCAA tournament.
“Selection Sunday, if you are in and you know you are in, it is like a holiday,” he mused.
While Miller looked ahead, Arizona junior forward Jesse Perry looked back on his expectations when he decided to join the Wildcats after leaving Logan (Ill.) Community College.
“This is what I had in mind, but I couldn’t imagine it would come this soon,” he said.
The Pac-10 tournament will begin in Los Angeles with Stanford and Oregon Sate on Wednesday, Mar. 9 at 7:00 pm MT and will conclude with the championship game being held at the Staples Center on Saturday, Mar. 12 at 4:15 pm MT.