The Arizona Wildcats are quietly still alive in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park for Arizona on Thursday night as they defeated a familiar foe with a similar style in the San Diego State Aztecs in what was a back and forth, tightly contested dogfight that seems the norm rather than the exception in this year’s tournament.
It wasn’t easy for Arizona as they battled not only the tough defense and pressure of San Diego State, but the energized crowd that seemed almost reminiscent of an Aztec home game. San Diego State set the tempo early and appeared to be in control of most of the game.
But Arizona simply remained patient, disciplined and they persevered.
Watching the game, it was necessary to remind myself on multiple occasions that Arizona is a No. 1 seed only because they seem to be the least heralded No. 1 seed of the tournament. Here’s the thing, though; down the stretch the true colors of the Wildcats came out, and it’s difficult not see them as a contender as the tournaments continues forward.
Aside from being a patient and disciplined team, Arizona did two things very well down the stretch when it mattered most; their defense was tough and they made their free throws. San Diego State made several big shots in the closing seconds of the game but never really had a chance as Arizona was money from the charity stripe.
Of course the road gets more difficult with each victory as the opponents progressively get better. The Wisconsin Badgers are next on the Wildcats’ radar. That said, tough defense keeps games close down the stretch and solid execution from the free throw line is a difference maker. Arizona proved Thursday they are more than capable in both categories.
An interesting subplot that may seem a long shot but certainly not unrealistic is the possibility of Arizona head coach Sean Miller meeting brother Archie Miller head coach of the Dayton Flyers. Dayton defeated the Stanford Cardinals Thursday night to move one step closer to that possibility.