Pac-12 Tournament: Arizona Wildcats give it their all but fall just short


Going into the Pac-12 Tournament, Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats knew they had to win the whole thing to make the NCAA tournament field. Coming off a devastating loss to Arizona State it was already going to be a long road ahead for the Wildcats. Then came the suspension of starting point guard Josiah Turner, just two days prior to the Cats first-round game against UCLA.

Quick side note, let me commend Miller for sticking to his morals and ethics by going through with the suspension at the worst possible timing for this team. This was the second time this season that Miller had to suspend Turner at a critical juncture in the season (Dec. 7 at Florida). Miller certainly cares about winning, you can see the fire and passion in him at every game and every press conference, but he showed that he would never jeopardize his integrity to get a win and I can’t think of a better quality to have in a head coach. Let’s be honest, many other coaches out there would have taken the easy way out by either not starting him in the next game or waiting until after the season to announce disciplinary action. Miller continues to impress me day-in and day-out.

Back to the Pac-12 Tournament…

The odds were clearly against the Arizona Wildcats. But the team came together, played with heart and passion and left everything on the court as they fell just three points short of winning the tournament and receiving that coveted automatic bid into the Big Dance. The Cats beat a big UCLA team that was on a mission to restore its winning ways after a Sports Illustrated article slamming the program became national headlines the week prior. Next up was an Oregon State team that was coming off a great win against No. 1 seed Washington. The Cats trailed at halftime but rallied in the second half to get the win. They were now one win away from their goal, an unlikely match-up against the Colorado Buffalos for the Pac-12 championship. It was a battle but in the end, the Buffalo’s stifling defense put a heartbreaking end to the Cats hopes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

I was very impressed with the how the team handled adversity and how the senior leaders rose to the occasion and fought for their team. Overall, there is one player who I would like to award my Stamp of Approval to and that is freshman guard Nick Johnson. Turner’s selfishness put Johnson in a tough spot, having to split time with Jordin Mayes at point guard, a position that Johnson does not regularly play. He welcomed this challenge with open arms and said he would “do anything to help this team win.” He then proceeded to put those words into action. Johnson put on an incredible display of athleticism against UCLA when he blocked back-to-back shot attempts within seconds of each other (Check out the ESPN top 10 play at 1:40 into this video: This play was a huge turning point in the game and gave Arizona the momentum to close it out. His performance against Oregon State was even more remarkable. In my opinion, he singly-handedly willed his team to victory. With the Cats down 7 points at half he took over and generated the first 14 points of the second half. He made the team’s first three-pointer of the half, then dished out an assist for a Solomon Hill layup. He added a free throw, another assist on a Brendon Lavender three-pointer. Then he made a lay up and assisted on Kyle Fogg’s three-pointer. All of a sudden the Cats were leading and never looked back.

My instinct tells me that Josiah Turner is done at the University of Arizona and if that is the case, I’m not worried. I am now confident that Johnson can be the point guard of the future for the Wildcats!

Thanks for reading!