The Elite 8 is one hurdle that Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller can’t seem to get over.
Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin marked the third time in Miller’s tenure with Arizona that he fell one win short of reaching the Final Four. Miller also led his Xavier Musketeers to an Elite 8 loss in 2008.
The 85-78 loss on Saturday marked the second consecutive year the Wildcats were ousted in the regional final by the Badgers. Arizona couldn’t overcome Sam Dekker’s eight points in the last two minutes of the game that included two cold-blooded three-pointers. He finished 8-of-11 from the field, including 5-for-6 from distance.
Last year, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson tied the game on a dunk with 36 seconds left in regulation and the game went to overtime. Wisconsin held a one-point lead with a minute left but neither team was able to score the rest of the way in a 64-63 Wisconsin win.
In 2011, it was Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies that pulled off a 65-63 win that overshadowed Derrick Williams’ 20-point night.
Here’s Sean Miller and the Wildcats’ three Elite 8 losses, by the numbers:
Arizona has been outscored by a combined 10 points in the three Elite 8 losses. Before Saturday’s seven-point defeat, the Wildcats lost by one point to the Badgers in 2014 and two points to the Huskies in 2011.
In each of the three losses, at least one player on the opposing team has scored 20 or more points. Frank Kaminsky did it the last two matchups, scoring 29 on Saturday and 28 the year before. Sam Dekker added 27 on Saturday and Kemba Walker tallied 20 in 2011. Derrick Williams is the only Wildcat to reach the 20-point plateau, which he did in the game against UConn.
Arizona actually held a rebound advantage in every game. In the three games combined, the Wildcats have outrebounded their opponent by 13. Against UConn, Arizona owned a 39-28 advantage on the glass. Last year against the Badgers it was 39-38, and this year it was 22-21.
The Wildcats have been outshot from distance in every game. In the three losses combined, the Wildcats have given up 23 three-pointers. Arizona only made 11 themselves, shooting 28 percent from deep. In the most recent loss, Wisconsin shot 12-for-18 from the three-point line while Arizona made just 2-of-6. Last year Wisconsin made 6-of-17 to Arizona’s 5-of-12. In 2011, Arizona shot just 19 percent from distance (4-for-21), while UConn went 5-for-17.
In two of the three games, the Wildcats had the ball last with a chance to win the game. In 2011, Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne both missed three-point field goals with less than 10 seconds remaining. In 2014, the Wildcats were unable to get a shot off after gaining possession with 2.3 seconds left in overtime.
The two coaches Sean Miller has had to face off against have 1,263 combined wins to their names. Bo Ryan has led the Badgers to the NCAA Tournament every year since he took over in 2001 and has 386 total college wins. Jim Calhoun won three national championships in his time with the Huskies and won 877 games as a head coach.