Make no mistake about it, Sean Miller was disappointed Arizona lost on Saturday.
However, he isn’t going to apologize for what he feels is a successful season.
“Well, it's always hard to end a season, but especially when you have a great team like we have,” Miller said. “I'm not going to apologize for being 34-4, and I'm not going to apologize for not making the Final Four, and neither should these guys.
“There are a couple of them, and I'll just use these two as an example, that have won 69 games in two years, have won back-to-back conference championships, have been in the top 10 for every day that they've dribbled a ball at Arizona, and we lost to Wisconsin in two hard-fought battles in the Elite Eight.
“And if that's a problem, I think you know what you can do.”
T.J. McConnell apologized to Miller as he was coming off the court and did it again in the postgame presser.
Arizona’s head coach wanted no part of the apology.
“Yeah, I mean, that's how T.J. talks,” Miller said. “Obviously, we were all trying to get each other to the Final Four and when you're in this game you're really close, especially when you're up three at the half.
“We were up three at the half last year against Wisconsin, ironically, about the same score. Obviously the second half went much different this year, but T.J. McConnell and Rondae, the two guys that were up here, they're the greatest kids that I've ever coached.
“They've done everything that we've asked. They play so hard every day that what they do becomes contagious, and it goes throughout the locker room. In my estimation, the greatest compliment that you can give these guys when they leave is that you're trying to find those that are like them to bring more in.”
Taking time to reflect, Miller believes it is important for his team to go out with its head up.
“Those two guys are unbelievable winners,” Miller said of McConnell and Hollis-Jefferson. “We're going to miss them. We really are.
“What they've done, and that is the hard part for me, because the focus is so much on the last game and the Final Four, I've been in this game four times, that you can't take away the 34 wins that we've had.
“Winning conference championships, I think we have the nation's longest winning streak, and they did all that, and yet we didn't get by Wisconsin today. As much as this hurts, it's so important for us and for me to give them that feeling that what we did over the last six months was the right stuff, and how they went about it was something that we're all really proud of, and I'm proud of them.”
Miller understands the criticism for not making the Final Four, but he wants to make sure that he takes the blame and not his players.
“I mean, when you lose in this game, it's hard,” he said. “You lose four times in seven years, and that's probably a record, right? It is what it is.
“You get to this level and lose -- tonight actually felt a little bit different in that it didn't come down to the last possession. The last couple that we've been in kind of was a single play that you hold on to.
“Tonight, I think over this summer when you have a perspective, I mean, my God, there were so many threes going in. It almost took the bite out of the loss somewhat. With the way the world is today, people will jump all over us for losing in the Elite Eight, and I just want to protect our players, because if you're T.J. McConnell and you've won 69 games in two years and you never lost a home game and you've gone to back-to-back Elite Eights, no kid should walk out of here with anything other than their head held high.
“That’s my point. We'll see. Maybe the fifth time that I get back here, maybe I'll break through.”