Arizona won three games in three days — beating Colorado, UCLA, and USC to capture the conference tournament crown and cut down their second net a week after winning the Pac 12 regular season title. Here’s what we learned from the ‘Cats last games before March Madness:
Sean Miller’s still the coach.
Lorenzo Romar joined the coaching staff this summer after being fired as head coach of Washington and brought with him to Tucson the fast-paced, low-efficiency offense and nearly nonexistent defense that Pac 12 foes had come to expect and love from Romar’s Washington teams. His influence can be blamed for the three early season loses in the Bahamas, and has been seen in all of Arizona’s struggles over the course of this season.
However, in Arizona’s conference tournament, it really looked like Sean Miller took control of his team. Why? Because they played defense. It is really that simple. Arizona played their best defense of the season. Allonzo Trier shot terribly but was still one of the three most dominant players on the court. Parker Jackson-Cartwright proved all his naysayers wrong. All because of defense.
Defense has been the hallmark of Sean Miller’s teams since he arrived at Arizona. The ‘Cats are finally playing defense. It’s Sean Miller’s team again.
Another place Sean Miller’s influence can be seen is in the play of DeAndre Ayton. UA’s usage of Ayton in a more traditional center role, even with Dusan Ristic on the court with him, is remnant of Kaleb Tarczewski’s role in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Arizona teams. Ayton was the focal point of the offence, and not only shot incredibly efficiently, his passing was crucial to Arizona’s success. The ‘Cats could count on Ayton to find the open shooter when he was being double teamed, which opened the floor for the ‘Cats and sent their opponents scrambling.
Allonzo Trier doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, Arizona’s primary scorer.
Allonzo Trier was 2-13 shooting from the field, including 2-10 from three point range, in the semi-final against UCLA. Despite that, the semi final was Trier’s best game of the season. Trier held UCLA guard Prince Ali to five points in 21 minutes. Ali averages nine points per game, according to Sports Reference. Trier also held Jaylen Hands to six points, also in 21 minutes. Hands averages 10.1 points per game.
What made Trier’s performance so spectacular is the minutes he played. Trier played 36 minutes against Colorado in game one, 42 against UCLA in game two, and 35 in game three against USC. Trier was also Arizona’s leading scorer in game one of the tournament, dropping 22 points.
Allonzo Trier can go out and score 20 points on anyone in the tournament. However, he’s much more valuable to Arizona as a defensive-minded player.
DeAndre Ayton is the best player in college basketball.
The dude is a Monstar. There’s nothing else to say.
Arizona can beat anyone in the country.
If Arizona continues to play complete basketball, they’ll beat anyone in tournament. They’ll win the damn thing. But that’s a huge if.
The best part of the basketball they’re playing, however, is that it’s not the best basketball they can play. USC was the best game of the season, by far. Arizona still had 14 turnovers. Rawle Alkins played abysmally for the first few minutes of the second half of that game. He then turned it on and had a momentum-shifting dunk.
Did I say momentum-shifting? I meant life-ending. Wow.
If all eight players in Arizona’s rotation can have a good game, Arizona’s the best team in the country.