As Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said Tuesday in Tucson, going against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the NCAA Tournament “isn’t a thrill.”
Miller might prefer anyone else. He has faced Coach K 15 times — 14 times as an assistant coach, including 13 meetings while he was with head coach Herb Sendek at North Carolina State.
Perhaps the one he most remembers came in 2004 when he was an assistant at Xavier.
“Thad Matta was the head coach when we lost to Duke in the Georgia Dome in the Elite Eight,” Miller said at a press conference Wednesday in Anaheim. “J.J. Reddick hit a great shot to propel them to the Final Four.”
The only time Miller was on the winning end against Krzyzewski was when unranked North Carolina State upset No. 7 Duke in the 1997 ACC tournament.
“The ultimate respect is what I have for him,” Miller said Tuesday. “And the reason is that I admire how hard his teams play, and as the faces change, that’s the common thing. Their effort level is amazing, and that’s something that we all try to instill in our own teams.”
Miller, in his fifth NCAA Tournament as a head coach, has an 8-4 tournament record and has never lost to a worst-seeded team. Here’s a factoid to chew on, though: His past three losses in the NCAA Tournament have come against No. 1 seeds.
Just like Duke this year.
Miller gets his first chance at Arizona against the Blue Devils on Thursday in the Sweet 16.