Often times, teams are not familiar with their first round opponent, but that’s not the case with Sean Miller.
“Well, I think it was right before Christmas, I happened to be at my house, late night, just flipping the channel,” Miller said. “The Texas Southern-Michigan State game came on. I always like to watch Michigan State play. Just so happens they were playing Texas Southern.
“I watched really the game in its entirety. So when I saw their name came up, I guess you probably get a sick feeling in your stomach because you know anybody that can go to East Lansing and can play that well against Michigan State, a team that's very well-coached.
“I'm familiar with Mike Davis. He's been in the national championship game. He's done well wherever he's been. He has his team back in this tournament again. Whoever you play in this tournament, it's going to be a tough draw. Couple years ago we played Belmont. See Belmont come up, sick feeling in your stomach.
“Last year when we were preparing for Weber State, we were a one seed, you start to say to yourself, How can they be a 16 seed they're so well coached? That's what makes March the way it is, this tournament the way it is. But I think you have to respect every day you're here, respect every team that you play, and hope you have a chance to move on. That's where we're at.”
If Texas Southern is going to get the upset, it is going to have to deal with numerous Arizona strengths.
“I think our strengths are fairly obvious,” Miller said. “Number one, it starts with our rebounding. The margin we had in Las Vegas this past weekend kind of highlights what I'm talking about, whether it's offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, not allowing teams to get more than one shot against us.
“We've been very consistent for two years. A lot of the players on this year's team were with us last year. I think number two is being an outstanding defensive team. When we haven't been that this year, we've been very vulnerable.
“For the most part we've done a great job. I think our defense has grown and improved. Hopefully it will be here with us in this tournament. I think that's where it starts, with defense and rebounding. When you talk about defense and rebounding, sometimes it's almost as if you're not a very good offensive team.
“I also believe that's the furthest thing from the truth. Maybe where our success lies this year is that we've been an improving offensive team, and maybe better than a lot of people realize, with at the same time having those two strengths, rebounding and defense, with us almost the entire way. We're looking to build on that right now here this week.”
Arizona’s opening game in Portland is a return home for assistant Damon Stoudamire.
“All of us need great coaching staffs,” Miller said. “I think we have one of the best ones. Emanuel Richardson has been with me for eight years. Joe Pasternack in that case, who is our current associate head coach, does an outstanding job. Damon Stoudamire, no question, he's added a lot.
“One of the things we love about Damon is that he became an NBA player for 13 years, but he did it by playing at the University of Arizona first. Played in a Final Four. He played in his conference that we're in. He lived in Tucson. He came back to get his college degree, but is a graduate from the University of Arizona.
“A lot of the things that our current players, they're trying to accomplish, they can look at somebody who is on our staff and say, he did it as one of us. Damon I think has given a lot of our players a sense of confidence because when he believes in them, it's one thing for me to believe in them, they can say, yeah, but you didn't play in the NBA.
“They can't say that about Damon. He's added a lot to us. I think he's made our coaching staff even better.”