Miller anticipates difficult matchup

Sean Miller anticipates a difficult matchup on Thursday. Read on for his thoughts on the SDSU program, Xavier Thames, and more.

When Sean Miller looks at how far Arizona and San Diego State have come since their first meeting, he sees a big difference with both squads.

"Well, we played so long ago, it was early November, very seldom is a game that pivotal between two teams played that early in the season," Miller said. "When I watch that game I see almost our team at a completely different place.

"We no longer have Brandon Ashley. Brandon was a starter in that game, and a lot of our other players have developed since then. I believe the same thing with their team. They were playing more players at that point."

One player that was not playing was Dwayne Polee, but that is not the only areas of improvement for the Aztecs.

"Dwayne Polee has really emerged for them," Miller said. "We know that, but they've gotten better as the year has gone on, like all teams do that are here in the Sweet Sixteen. I think when you play them, it starts with being able to handle them rebounding. They're an outstanding offensive rebounding team. They take a lot of pride in doing that at both ends.

"Their team has talent in that area, a lot of long, athletic players, a physical team, a great toughness about them. They're an elite defensive team, but one of the statistics defensively that's different between the two teams, us and them, is they steal the ball. They turn you over. They get big turnovers with the way they play defense, which gives them additional offense."

Offensively, the key to stopping the Aztecs is to contain Xavier Thames, but not a lot of teams have ben able to do that.

"Xavier Thames, I'm here in the west, I don't know if the rest of the nation realizes what a terrific guard he is," Miller said. "What he's done for their team from the month of November all the way to March, just watching him the last two games. That's one thing that hasn't changed.

"He's been dynamic, makes big shots, is really good on that middle ball screen, and I think every coach and team who plays them wants to do that part of the equation well, but it's not easy to keep him under control. He's also a very key element to their team."

In order to Arizona to contain Thames, Miller believes it just needs to make life as difficult as possible.

"I think what you want to do is make the game hard," he said. "He's an outstanding shooter. He really uses ball screens to free himself up, for threes to free himself up, for jump shots. He can make his teammates better, but he really uses that to score for himself.

"With that, it's not just a player who is guarding him, it's the player guarding the screen. It's a team. It's really a team dynamic that you need in place to do a good job against him."

Thames is also a confident player and that confidence seems to be something that can be found within the entire SDSU program.

"I think they're a confident program, not a team, but a confident program," Miller said. "I've been in their shoes as the head coach at Xavier. You have a lot of guys on your team that have been overlooked, or they're in their next stop having transferred. A lot of times they have a healthy chip on their shoulder.

"I mean that in a positive way. They're out to prove that they're better than the outside world has given them credit. I think just their program in general, I think they have a chip on their shoulder that when you play them, it is a very competitive, hard fought game.

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