"We chose as a program to not play a game post-Christmas and I think the 11 other teams in our conference have played one," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "I think from our perspective, especially being that a year ago our Christmas schedule was really unique because we not only played a basketball game on Christmas Day and three games in four days at that time, we did it in Hawaii and by the time we traveled back, although we had a break, I felt like our team went into conference play not as refreshed."
Miller uses last year's experience as a reason why the Arizona schedule came out like it did this season.
"Knowing that we had a number of players that went through that experience a year ago and having that feeling like we did, we decided this year to put a lot of pressure on our team to play 13 games before the break and then really be able to take a true break and be able to have a nice beginning to the conference season with five hard practices in a row leading into Washington State," he said.
In addition, although Miller did not want to get too negative about last season, he does reflect on the way that certain players came back from the break.
"The period of time that we're currently in a year ago, we were really struggling as a team," he said. "I think we had certain players that would have loved to play more and cared about that more than the success of the team.
"I think we had a group that felt really good about being 12-0, almost as if the conference season wouldn't be as challenging. Didn't realize what it takes and how hard it is to win in conference play. The reason why I say that is because our practices leading up to conference play really reflected that. It was like pulling teeth. Not to a man, but just generally speaking. It only takes a few to ruin the whole practice environment."
Miller does not know what the rest of the season holds, but does feel that the team is mentally in a different place than it was last season.
"Speaking about this year, we're better in that area," Miller said. "I hope that translates into wins. It does not mean that it will, but I feel if you honor the process, you're a talented group and you're working every day towards being a good team, that's going to at the end of the day give us the best chance to be the best team we can be."
It has not been a secret that one of the aspects Miller enjoys most about this year's team is its personality.
"Every team has their good qualities and one of the best qualities of this year's team is that we have a great group of guys, people, who they are both on the court and off the court," he said. "I think everybody to a man wants to be a part of a winning team. I think everybody is tied to each other and we sense that with how our team has come back over the break."