As he has done all season, Sean Miller was quick to compliment Oregon after the Ducks defeated Arizona on Friday night.
“Number one, I believe that Oregon is right there to be a one, two seed, Miller said. “I guess everyone has a different opinion, but they're certainly one of college basketball's best teams. I respect their team a great deal.
“To me why they're so, so good is because of how together they are. If you add up their individual talent, though they have some tremendous players, their whole becomes greater.
“Dana Altman, deservedly so, is the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. I don't know how you can do a better job than he's doing in that program. All of us, as part of the Pac-12, benefit because of how good they are and I think how good they're going to continue to be moving forward. They have a great style.”
Oregon ended the first half with a 15-2 run that changed the game dramatically.
“Tonight it was an interesting game because I felt like they were the better team and the better team won,” Miller said. “But if you really look at the game, for about 17:30 of the first half, though I don't feel like we ever took the lead, we were at a one-point game at that point.
“Two and a half minutes before halftime, and then they just kind of punched it out. Thirteen, 15-2 run or whatever it was leading into halftime.”
In addition, Miller pointed to Arizona’s effort level early in the game.
“The first half, the last couple of minutes of the first half has really been what I've been fighting as their coach from day one with this group,” he said. “Talked a lot after the Colorado game. I'm not negative Nelly.
“I understand that if you advance in the Pac-12 Tournament, that's a good thing, but if you think about the second half of the Colorado game versus the first half, it's hard to imagine we were the same team. When you do that, it's also hard to imagine that that is just going to go away.
“The point that I made to our group is if we're not the hard-playing, together team, like Oregon is, from this point on, we won't advance. And tonight, Oregon was the better team. They were also the more-together, harder-playing team, and that last 2:30 of the first half was something that I think reflects some of my concerns and certainly won them the game to their credit.”
Still, there are also some positives to be taken away.
“The second half we ended up outscoring them by 15,” Miller said. “I think that says a lot about our team. If you look at the rebounding tonight, it's great for us to get back on the positive side of that.
“Anytime you out-rebound a team like Oregon by the amount we did, that's a good sign. 28-plus offensive rebounds. Then to give yourself a chance to win, to never give up, to just keep fighting and playing every possession until the end. We had a free throw, we could have won the game, which is amazing to think of.
“Then when overtime started, again, I thought they reestablished themselves as the better team. A couple of our players fouled out and they won a great game. I give our team credit for fighting.”
Miller did not go so far as to call this season disappointing, but did choose to mention some facts about this year’s team.
“We're 25-8, I think that's our record,” he said. “I don't right now say, man, what's wrong with us? Nobody has to tell me what we do at Arizona, how high the bar is, and we have that bar high ourselves.
“We're disappointed that we weren't able to advance to the championship, but we're okay. We're part of the NCAA Tournament. The one thing that I look at every year now, because it's so different in college basketball, look at the programs who won't be in this year's tournament.
“It's mind-boggling. But we have to replace half of our roster every year, and every once in a while you won't quite be as good as you were a year ago no matter how hard you try.
“So with that, we have to play our best, and we have to learn from this, and we have to have a couple great days. We have to be excited to be in the tournament, and I think everybody knows that this year in the field a lot of different teams can make their way.
“We've been in the Sweet 16 three years in a row. There's not a lot of people that can say that. So we have a number of players that have been there, and now we have to reestablish ourselves as getting that 26th win and having a chance to play for a Sweet 16.”