First-year Arizona coach Sean Miller might not get the Wildcats to a 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament; achieving that will require winning the Pac-10 tournament.
But he got all he could have hoped for last weekend in a sweep of UCLA and USC.
"We're tough-minded," Miller said after the Cats' 86-84 double-overtime win against USC. "When we were at Cal, just 10 days ago, it looked like the bottom was falling out."
Arizona lost 95-71 that night, but won three consecutive nail-biters to end the regular season, securing fourth place in the final Pac-10 standings. The Wildcats (16-14, 10-8) beat Stanford, UCLA and USC by a combined total of nine points.
"That might have been our ceiling," Miller said of the team's final record. "To me, and I'm not going to say we over-achieved, but it's right around what everyone would've hoped, given the circumstances."
In fact, the Cats were picked fourth in the preseason media poll.
All has not been easy for Arizona, or for point guard Nic Wise, the club's only senior. He has been brilliant on some nights but struggled with a young cast around him on others.
But after all manner of dramatics against USC -- including sophomore Kyle Fogg converting three free throws with 0.2 seconds left to tie the score in regulation -- it was Wise who delivered. His layup with 1.5 seconds left in the second overtime won it.
"In a funny way, this game has represented our entire season," Miller said. "And in a funny way, it represents Nic Wise and what he has endured."
Wise has stuck around at UA to play for four different coaches, something Miller said he wouldn't have done as a player.
"I think the world of Nic," he said. "He has a great attitude, loves the game and loves Arizona. If he didn't, he certainly wouldn't have endured the numerous changes that he's experienced. He's our heart and soul."
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