Sporting News NCAA basketball writer Mike DeCourcy agrees with Arizona coach Sean Miller, who said he and his team have nothing to apologize for after being bounced by Wisconsin 85-78 in the Elite 8 last Saturday.
“The people who should apologize are the committee who forced them to play Wisconsin this season when he put together a resume that was probably at least borderline one-seed worthy, and the committee blew it by pretending that Villanova was the number two overall team,” DeCourcy told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning.
Arizona entered the NCAA Tournament with a 31-3 record and as Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions. Villanova was 32-2, having won the Big East regular season as well as the conference’s tournament.
Of course, Villanova’s Wildcats had a rough NCAA Tournament, having been eliminated in the round of 32 by North Carolina State. While tournament results should not be proof of a team being overseeded or underseeded, it can give ammunition for those who feel like mistakes were made when the brackets were put together.
DeCourcy said Villanova was the “kings of very good,” while Arizona beat legitimate opponents like Gonzaga.
“At the very least, you should have put Villanova and Arizona in the same bracket, and said, ‘OK, Villanova, if you really think you’re that good, beat these guys.’ It wouldn’t have happened,” he added. “If they had put Villanova in the West, then Arizona would be in the Final Four.
“Having to play Wisconsin, basically two one-seeds playing in the regional final, somebody great was going to lose, and I never thought the matchup favored Arizona. I thought we would see something similar to what we saw a year ago, and we did.”
Though there may very well be some truth to Decourcy’s words, it still likely does little to ease the pain Arizona fans are feeling these days. After all, the only teams who can say they went to the Final Four are the ones who, you know, went to the Final Four, and while UA may be one of the four best teams, their run ended in the Elite 8.
The loss, mind you, was Arizona’s third Elite 8 defeat since Miller arrived in 2009. In 2011, fifth-seeded Arizona fell to eventual champion UConn 65-63, and last year the one-seeded ‘Cats lost to Wisconsin 64-63 in OT. Then, of course, there was Saturday’s game.
Still, disappointment aside, DeCourcy made it clear he believes Miller, who has compiled a 163-52 record in Tucson, is doing an excellent job.
“They continue to bring high, high-level players there, they built the program back up into a national power, and when they get the right mix and the right break…and let’s not forget, a year ago if Brandon Ashley does not break his foot — it’s obviously unprovable — but they win the national championship,” he said. “They were the only great team last year. They were the only one. And when he broke his foot, that changed everything.”
He noted that to lose Ashley, who was averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for a team that had started 21-0, was a big blow, but the Wildcats survived and still earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, they ended up losing to second-seeded Wisconsin, but still, they found a way to make it work. In the end, seventh-seeded UConn went on an impressive run to win the championship.
“It was a huge blow and they fought through that,” he said of the Wildcats. “I really feel bad for that group, because if he doesn’t get hurt, I’m absolutely sold that they win it all.”